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Re: CNN: 'Explores Possibility that Power Outage is Related to Internet Worm'
From: "Geoff Shively" <gshively () pivx com>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 11:21:08 -0700

This email was origionaly posted to bugtraq early on in the 'crisis' but due
to obvious congestion and instability issues it wasnt posted for a while.

Since this post I have done much research on SCADA, DCS, and HMI
(Human Machine Interface) systems. These systems run primarily
on Windows and rely on RPC for remote monitoring. If this doesnt
sound like an overwhealiming coincidance than I dont know what does.


"The data transmission layer is used to transport data from the equipment
to at least one controlor monitoring application. This is usually done by
remote procedure calls (RPC) or a middle-wareover a TCP/IP network."
- CERN ]

There has been much talk about this on DShield and Full Disclosure if
anyone is interested in reading more.


Geoff Shively, CHO
PivX Solutions, LLC

Are You Secure?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bernie, CTA" <cta () hcsin net>
To: <bugtraq () securityfocus com>
Cc: "Geoff Shively" <gshively () pivx com>
Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 11:09 AM
Subject: Re: CNN: 'Explores Possibility that Power Outage is Related to
Internet Worm'

It is ridiculous to accept that a lightning strike could knock
out the grid, or the transmission system is over stressed. There
are many redundant fault, limit and Voltage-Surge Protection
safeguards and related instrumentation and switchgear installed
at the distribution centers and sub stations along the Power
Grid that would have tripped to prevent or otherwise divert such
a major outage.

I believe that the outage was caused by the MSblaster, or its
mutation, which was besieged upon the respective vulnerability
in certain control and monitoring systems (SCADA and otherwise)
running MS 2000 or XP, located different points along the Grid.
Some of these systems are accessible via the Internet, while
others are accessible by POTS dialup, or private Frame relay and
dedicated connectivity.

Being an old PLC automation and control hack let me say that
there is a very good plausibility that the recent East Coast
power outage was due to an attack by an MBlaster variant on the
SCADA system at the power plant master terminal, or more likely
at several of the remote terminal units "RTU".  SCADA runs under
Win2000 / XP and the telemetry to the RTU is accessible via the

From what I recall SCADA based monitoring and control systems
were installed at many water / sewer processing, gas and oil
processing, and hydro-electric plants.

I also believe that yesterdays flooding of a generator sub-
facility in Philadelphia was also due to an MBlaster variant
attack on the SCADA or similarly Win 2000 / XP based system.

To make things worst, the Web Interface is MS ActiveX. Now lets
see, how can one craft an ActiveX vuln vector into the blaster?

Oh, and for the wardrivers, SCADA can be access via wireless
connections on the road. puts a new perspective on sniffing
around sewer plants.

It is also reasonable to assume that we could have a similar
security threat regarding those system (SCADA and otherwise
based on MS 2000 or XP) involved in the control, data
acquisition, and maintenance of other critical infrastructure,
such as inter/intra state GAS Distribution, Nuclear Plant
Monitoring, Water and Sewer Processing, and city Traffic
Control. IMO

I think we will see a lot of finger pointing by government
agencies, Utilities, and politicians for the Grid outage, until
someone confess to the security dilemma and vulnerabilities in
the systems which are involved in running this critical

Regardless of whether the Grid outage can be attributed to the
blaster or its variant, this is not entirely a Microsoft
problem, as it reeks of poor System Security Engineering
practiced by the Utility Companies, and associated equipment and
technology suppliers.

Nonetheless, the incident will cause lots of money to be
earmarked by the US and Canadian Governments, to be spent in an
attempt to solve the problem, or more specifically calm the

This incident should be fully investigated, and regulations
passed to ensure that the Utility companies and their suppliers
develop and implement proper safeguards that will help prevent
or at least significantly mitigate the effects of such a

Conversely, I do not want to see our Government directly
involved in yet another "business", which has such a controlling
impact over our individual lives.


On 14 Aug 2003 at 15:18, Geoff Shively wrote:

Just flipped on CNN, watching the masses snake through the
streets of Manhattan as correspondents state that this could be
an affect of the blaster worm.

Interesting but I don't see how an worm of this magnitude
(smaller than that of Slammer/Sapphire and others) could
influence DCS and SCADA systems around the US, particularly just
in the North East.



Geoff Shively, CHO
PivX Solutions, LLC

Chief Technology Architect
Chief Security Officer
cta () hcsin net
Euclidean Systems, Inc.
// "There is no expedient to which a man will not go
//    to avoid the pure labor of honest thinking."
//     Honest thought, the real business capital.
//      Observe> Think> Plan> Think> Do> Think>

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