An FBI and US homeland security probe has been launched after a cyber-attack suspected of originating in Russia caused a water utility pump outside of Springfield, Illinois to be shut down for a short period of time.
The hacking of the water pump did not effect water supply in Central, IL however it did signal the first publicly known case of a foreign hacker successfully penetrating a US industrial facility.
The hack occurred on November 8 when a technician for the facility announced the attack.
The system was compromised when a hacker obtained supervisory control and the facilities data acquisition (Scada) software. During the hack the Scada system was turned off which in turn burned out the water pump.
In the meantime Homeland security spokesman Peter Boogaard has not confirmed that the shutdown was necessarily the result of an attack since no critical infrastructure entities were targets and no threat was made to the public’s safety.
If the Scada system was compromised it could pose a greater risk to the public in the future since the software is used to control water treatment facilities, railway switches, chemical plans, gas pipelines and even nuclear reactors.
Concerns have been raised over the system in the past, last year Iran’s uranium enrichment facility was attacked by the virus Stuxnet which also targeted Scada systems. When attacking the Iran facility the virus sped up uranium centrifuges while shutting off warning and safety systems.
The FBI and US Homeland Security continue to investigate the incident to determine the exact cause of the system failure.