Years after Stuxnet first wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear research facilities, the malware’s effects continue to be felt. Now, Chevron has admitted for the first time that its IT systems were infected, and security experts say the Siemens control software targeted by Stuxnet remains vulnerable to similar attacks.
CIO Journal’s Rachel King reported, “Stuxnet, a sophisticated computer virus created by the United States and Israel, to spy on and attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz also infected Chevron ’s network in 2010, shortly after it escaped from its intended target. Chevron found Stuxnet in its systems after the malware was first reported in July 2010, said Mark Koelmel, general manager of the earth sciences department at Chevron. ‘I don’t think the U.S. government even realized how far it had spread,’ he told CIO Journal. ‘I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished,’ he said.”
ZDNet’s Michael Lee explained, “Stuxnet’s payload was specific to the systems in place in Iran, but its spreading mechanism was not as picky. As a result, the malware managed to escape from the facility and spread far beyond its initial target. Stuxnet only delivers its payload if the industrial equipment is one of two Siemens Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and a specific network card is used. Nevertheless, this had lead some researchers to speculate on the effects that Stuxnet may have on other targets with similar industrial equipment in place.”
In a separate report Computerworld’s Jeremy Kirk noted, “Software made by Siemens and targeted by the Stuxnet malware is still full of other dangerous vulnerabilities, according to Russian researchers whose presentation at the Defcon security conference earlier this year was cancelled following a request from the company. Sergey Gordeychik, CTO of Moscow-based Positive Technologies, was scheduled to give a presentation in July at Defcon, but it was abruptly pulled after Siemens asked for more time to patch its WinCC software.”
PC Pro’s Stewart Mitchell quoted Positive Technologies, which stated, “The [Siemens] ICS/SCADA systems are present in high-speed trains and subway trains, oil and gas pipelines, nuclear power plants, hydroelectricity plants, electric power and water supply management networks. It is easy to imagine what may happen in case a system failure in a facility occurs as a result of a hacker attack. The number of such threats is growing all the time.”