[ISN] US warns nuke plants of worm threat

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Sep 03 2003 - 22:34:55 PDT

  • Next message: InfoSec News: "[ISN] EEYE: Microsoft WordPerfect Document Converter Buffer Overflow"

    By Kevin Poulsen
    Posted: 03/09/2003 
    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday issued a formal
    Information Notice to nuclear power plant operators warning them about
    an incident in January in which the Slammer computer worm penetrated
    networks at Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear plant and disabled two
    important monitoring systems for hours.
    The notice is the NRC's first public acknowledgement of the incident,
    which was first reported by SecurityFocus last month.
    In a statement, the NRC said it issued the notice to warn utilities of
    the potential for nuclear plants to be infected by the Slammer worm.  
    But the commission emphasized that the Slammer-induced failures at
    Davis-Besse did not affect the safe operation of the plant. "NRC
    regulations require safety-related systems to be isolated or have
    send-only communication with other systems," the commission said.
    The notice follows a private industry advisory circulated last March,
    and a similarly worded e-mail sent to the NRC in April by an official
    at FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility that runs the plant. "It just
    went through the usual bureaucratic process," says NRC spokesman Scott
    Burnell. "Once the investigations that FirstEnergy had done were
    completed, they turned it over to us."
    The worm entered the Davis-Besse plant by penetrating a contractor's
    network, then squirming through a T1 line bridging that network and
    Davis-Besse's corporate LAN. The T1 line, investigators later found,
    completely bypassed the plant's firewall, which was programmed to
    block the port Slammer used to spread.
     From the corporate network, the worm moved to the plant's operations
    network, where the traffic jam it produced disabled a system called
    the Plant Process Computer, and the Safety Parameter Display System --
    a computerized display panel that monitors critical plant functions. A
    redundant analog backup to the SPDS was unaffected by the worm.
    The troubled plant had been offline since early 2002, when workers
    discovered a 6-by-5-inch hole in the plant's reactor head.
    The Information Notice includes no specific recommendations, and does
    not address any danger posed by the more recent Blaster worm. But it
    notes that the NRC issued a security order in February, 2002, alerting
    plant operators to the possibility that external network
    interconnections might improperly bypass protective measures, like
    firewalls. At FirstEnergy, that security order was implemented by the
    plant's IT personnel, but was not passed on to the plant computer
    engineers responsible for the wayward T1 line, according to the
    Plant computer engineers were also unaware that a patch was available
    for the MS-SQL vulnerability that Slammer exploited. Microsoft had
    released the patch six months earlier.
    FirstEnergy has become a focus of the investigation into last month's
    northeastern U.S. power outage.
    ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org
    To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn'
    in the BODY of the mail.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Sep 04 2003 - 01:15:47 PDT