Computer worm could cause power black-out

07 December,2010 07:10 AM IST |   |  Bobby Anthony

A PIECE of malware capable of shutting down the computer systems power plants run on threatens to cause a power black-out in the city if it lands in the wrong hands, say security experts


A PIECE of malware capable of shutting down the computer systems power plants run on threatens to cause a power black-out in the city if it lands in the wrong hands, say security experts.

Stuxnet, a worm which adversely affected Iran*s nuclear power plants recently, is a piece of weaponised malware designed to manipulate and disrupt Siemens* WinCC systems, a type of Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) product used to run huge automated industrial assembly lines as well as power generation and transmission systems.

Stuxnet is known to reprogramme and thus disrupt programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are specialised chips in SCADA systems that control and automate electro-mechanical processes.

Incidentally, Reliance Energy as well as Tata Power use SCADA systems in their power plants, as per their respective websites.

However, it is not known whether it is Siemens* SCADA systems that these companies use.

"But that is no consolation at all, because only a small part of the Stuxnet code would have to be re-written by rogue groups to disrupt SCADA systems made by companies other than Siemens.
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It can be easily done, because all SCADA systems run on Windows.
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After the arrival of Stuxnet, shutting down the entire power infrastructure of a city is no longer science fiction," said Vijay Mukhi, cyber security expert and Consultant Cyber Law, DSK Legal.

"In fact, Stuxnet*s source code is already available freely. Any rogue group with a modest budget can modify it and use it to shut down the power infrastructure of a city," he added.

Stupefying

"Stuxnet is like the arrival of an F-35 fighter jet on a World War I battlefield," blogged German industrial control systems expert Ralph Langner recently, giving an idea about the havoc it is capable ofu00a0 wreaking.

PLCs SCADA security nuclear power plants
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