Hackers damage German steel mill while accessing production networks

Germany’s steel mill damaged as hackers gain total control of production networks

Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), has revealed in their latest report about a rare instance of a cyber attack being used to cause serious physical damage. The report stated that a steel factory in Germany suffered massive losses after the attackers managed to get access into the network systems during a successful cyber attack.

The Attack

The attackers gained access to the network connected to the production line of the factory. Once they got access, they used the authority to tamper with the factory’s furnace. The attack used spear phishing and sophisticated social engineering techniques to gain access to the factory’s office networks, from which access to production networks was gained.

Spear phishing involves the use of email that appears to come from within an organization and is normally addressed to the upper echelons of a company to get access to important credentials. After the system was compromised, individual components or even entire systems started to fail frequently. Due to these failures and due to the fact that the network control was in hands of the hackers, the mill floor managers could not shut of the furnace.  The furnace overheated and cause major damage to the entire plant.

The BSI described the attacker to be very skillful in the technical details, as such skill would have been needed to carry out the hack. The attack involved the compromise of a variety of different internal systems and industrial components, BSI said, noting that not only was there evidence of a strong knowledge of IT security but also extended know-how of the industrial control and production process.

Reminiscent of Stuxnet

The nature of this attack made many experts compare it to Stuxnet – the first dangerous cyber weapon in  known history. Stuxnet was allegedly developed by the United states in collaboration with Israel with the goal of taking down the nuclear program of Iran. Stuxnet contained vast espionage and sabotage functionalities that were used to destroy up to 1,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at a nuclear plant near the city of Natanz in Iran. Stuxnet not only succeeded in its motive but also set the Iran’s nuclear ambitions back by at least five years and brought the once rebel country to the negotiating table with the major powers of the world.

Though damaging the German steel mill may not rate as high as damaging centrifuges in a Iranian nuclear farm, the capability and the reach of cyber attacks is well demonstrated from the damages and loss it caused.

Resource : BSI

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Delwyn Pinto
Delwyn Pinto
A person proud to have an alternate view


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