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Hackers Create First Industrial Control Trojan

This reportedly first-of-a-kind virus has been dubbed Stuxnet and is spread by infected USB thumb drives

A Trojan of unknown origin whose purpose is either espionage or sabotage is targeting Siemens industrial control systems, the SCADA or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems that run automated plants like power generators, chemical facilities and food processing operations as well as nuclear submarines.

Reuters, which broke the story, says the security experts long ago anticipated that terrorists or rogue nations would someday develop SCADA viruses either to steal sensitive data or for sabotage.

This reportedly first-of-a-kind virus has been dubbed Stuxnet and is spread by infected USB thumb drives, a bow to the fact that SCADA systems aren't normally connected to the Internet. It takes advantage of a previously unknown Windows vulnerability and now that that's been publicized others are likely to follow.

The wire service says Siemens knows of only one customer, an unidentified German company, whose system was infected. But Stuxnet includes a rootkit so people may not know they've been compromised, although the thing can be detected by antivirus software.

According to CNET Stuxnet needs Siemens' Simatic WinCC software and uses a default password hard-coded into the software to get to the control system's Microsoft SQL database.

Microsoft says it looks like it's been operational for at least a month. Siemens is updating its security and Microsoft is working on a patch. It already has a workaround.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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