Monday, May 18, 2015

Newsweek reports on Russian malware, and the danger of "air gaps" to critical infrastructure otherwise off the web


Newsweek seem to be staying in print, with some startling issues, including May 15, 2015, with a big color story by Owen Matthews, “From Russia with Malware”, illustrations by Oliver Munday, link .
  
The most startling concept discussed in the article is the idea of an “air gap”.  This would allow a hacker to access a facility (like the control of an electric utility, even a nuclear reactor) otherwise totally isolated topologically from the public Internet, through wireless routers in the facility.  It would seem that workspaces around critical infrastructures need to be hard-wired and not depend on wireless.  It’s not clear whether employee cell phones could even provide some kind of point of entry.
Concerns like this come up in protecting the power grid, as well as transportation systems (like aircraft, and even remote controls on trains becoming more critical, as in relation to the recent Amtrak accident).
  
However, “amateur” or “lone wolf” ideologically inspired hackers are unlikely to have these kinds of skills.  They are more likely to be hired out by states, like Russia, China, and particularly North Korea.  But ISIL might be able to acquire this capability.

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