Oil companies hit by cyber attacks

FBI says three major U.S. oil producers got hacked. This time it's IT networks, but could manufacturing be a next step?
By Peter Welander January 29, 2010

Recently the FBI told three U.S. oil companies that they’d been hacked. Marathon, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips had their IT systems violated and proprietary information was being siphoned out. Some apparently was going to China. Most of the information involved exploration and oil discovery efforts.

The Christian Science Monitor goes into more detail on the story, including descriptions of the "phishing" and "spear phishing" techniques the infiltrators used to gain access. It also says that the companies didn’t understand the depth of the attacks until the FBI filled them in.

While the hackers seemed to stay in what we would consider to be IT networks, those places can be the jumping-off point for attacks on SCADA and plant control systems. Moving into the next part of the network is much easier when the hackers are working from an established beach head. This also reminds us why it is so important to have appropriate barriers installed at all the points where manufacturing and IT systems interface.

You can find many cyber security resources at Control Engineering’s Website, including a podcast with Ed Skoudis who was interviewed in the Christian Science Monitor story.

See the whole podcast catalog .

Read the Control Engineering industrial control system cyber security blog .

Read Applying Security Defense-in-Depth .

 

-Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com
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