End the Lie

Feds quickly backtrack on Illinois water pump supposedly hacked by Russians

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By End the Lie

A large water tower in the Curran-Gardner Water District in Illinois (Photo: David Spencer/The State Journal-Register)

In the immediate aftermath of the alleged hacking of the water pump in Illinois it seemed like it could be an attempt to demonize the Russians for their support of Syria’s Assad and to justify increased government control over the internet.

A so-called expert, who has since totally delegitimized himself, was published in The Washington Post claiming that it was the work of foreign hackers, citing a report collected by the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC).

Although the STIC doesn’t advertise it on their website, a telephone call revealed that they are indeed one of the nation’s many fusion centers, which the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently revealed are attempting to exempt their own domestic spying databases from the key protections under the Privacy Act.

This supposed cyber security expert, Joe Weiss, claimed that he obtained a report dated November 10th that revealed details of the hacking by Russians which led to the “burn out of a water pump.”

Yet Don Craven, a water district trustee, quickly put the claims made by Weiss into doubt, on November 18th in the Illinois State Journal-Register.

“Whether the burnout of that pump was related to this what might or might not have been a hacking, we don’t know,” Craven said.

However, Craven did say, “There is some indication that there may have been either an attempt successfully or unsuccessful to hack into our system apparently through this SCADA [Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition] software.”

Interestingly, the blog of Joe Weiss linked on The State Journal-Register is no longer available, when visiting the link it now returns a “Page not found” message, perhaps because Weiss simply removed the wholly inaccurate report in a futile attempt to mitigate the damage to his reputation.

Unfortunately for Weiss, his claims were spread far and wide and promulgated by the likes of Dave Marcus, the director of security research for McAfee labs who claimed, “So many [utilities operators] are ill-prepared for cyber-attacks.”

Yet in reality, the threat to public infrastructure is far from the grave situation presented by the alarmists who seek to utilize the manufactured crisis in order to profit, just like rest of the so-called homeland security industry.

As Wired revealed last year, it is not nearly as easy to hack into and disable such critical infrastructure systems as these so-called experts would like to make us believe.

This is due to the fact that the systems are highly complex, utilize proprietary operating systems and applications which are not easily obtainable for exploitation probing by an average hacker.

Furthermore, Wired reveals, “To start, these systems are rarely connected directly to the public internet. And that makes gaining access to grid-controlling networks a challenge for all but the most dedicated, motivated and skilled — nation-states, in other words.”

Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that the initial reports which Weiss was promoting were based on raw and unconfirmed data.

Indeed Ortman revealed that DHS and FBI conducted a detailed analysis of the pump failure at the Curran-Gardner Public Water District and found, “There is no evidence to support claims made in initial reports.”

“In addition, DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported,” Ortman added.

Craven said that he has been busy taking phone calls for international news outlets and that he wished the story never came out.

He added that members of the water district board are discussing the possibility of increasing the security measures at the facility and that extra money was spent in order to pay for personnel to help with the investigation into the failed pump.

According to The State Journal-Register, federal officials will release more relevant information when their analysis of the incident is complete.

One Response to Feds quickly backtrack on Illinois water pump supposedly hacked by Russians

  1. Jo November 23, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Total anti-Russian propaganda but i like how they backtracked so fast!


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