Security Expert Says Illinois Water System Hacked

Customer user names and passwords were believed to have been stolen in the cyber-attack on the district's supervisory control and data acquisition system, or SCADA, Joseph Weiss, a well-known cyber-expert and managing partner of Applied Control Solutions, wrote Thursday in his blog. The Internet protocol address of the attacker was traced to Russia.

A state organization reported the attack, Weiss said. He did not identify the district or the organization.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed there was a problem in a SCADA system in a Springfield, Ill., water company. The DHS did not confirm that a cyber-attack had occurred, saying it was under investigation.

"At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety," DNS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement sent to the media.

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Weiss claimed minor glitches were seen for two to three months in the Internet-accessible component of the SCADA system before the abnormalities were identified as a cyber-attack. Power to the SCADA system was turned on and off, eventually burning out a water pump, he said.

A SCADA system is an industrial control system that would monitor and control various processes within a water facility, such as water treatment and distribution and wastewater collection and treatment.

SCADA system s are as vulnerable to cyber-attacks as computers, David Marcus, director of security research for McAfee, said in a commentary posted on the company's blog Friday.

"Attackers tend to target systems that can be successfully compromised, and recent history has shown that these systems are at least as vulnerable as other types of networked systems," Marcus said.

If the report is true, then it would be significant because destruction from a cyber-attack on an industrial control system in the U.S. is virtually unknown. Such attacks are common on corporate computer systems.

The potential threat the Internet poses to a country's infrastructure was highlighted last year with the discovery of Stuxnet. The malware is believed to have damaged Iran's nuclear facility after infiltrating its control systems.