Thursday, 14 August 2008

Hacking Safety Systems

I don't normally comment on this area, but I do track what is going on.
Walt Boyes has written on his 'blog' about a demonstration of compromised Safety System, read it all here
I have resp0nded, not least because many year ago I was delegated the job of checking out alarming reports about Y2K faults that might blow by up refineries. I had a free hand to investigate the truth about such tales, and invariably I found bad science.
The dialog so far follows.

When you say things like “blow up a refinery” it suggests that some software fault (eg caused by some hacker) might have the capability of doing that. But as you know the ultimate protection, and a great deal of effort goes into it, is at the lowest physical level possible, relief valves for example. And hard wired logic, high integrity safety systems etc. I had this argument over Y2K many years ago. Don’t you think you may be feeding the trolls? Francis

Comment by FrancisL Posted on August 12, 2008 @ 11:26 am

No, I am not feeding trolls. Francis, I saw a live demonstration of a hack against an SIS system last week. It took 26 seconds to cause the valves to fail open. The danger is in fact real.
Comment by
waltboyes Posted on August 12, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

More details please Walt. My mind boggles that anyone could engineer an SIS to permit such a hack, and how such an SIS could be even called a safety system. And does the situation not imply that a failure in the SIS (hacked or not) could open the valves? So how can it be called an SIS? Francis
Comment by FrancisL Posted on August 13, 2008 @ 11:47 am

Your guess is as good as mine. Fact remains, this product is being sold as a SIS. I do not know the vendor. Anytime a SIS is connected to the plant network, it becomes open to an attack. Nearly all PLCs, including safety PLCs are vulnerable to DoS attacks unless properly firewalled. I have not much more information, because the demonstrator was unwilling to share too many.

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