Automation, Control and Hacking

Given the old news of Stuxnet and Crash Override, and the closer to home news about American power plants; and given the continuing push towards net-enabled control systems on ships; I wonder if its time to look squarely at the problem. The new possibilities make really nice copy, and we always mention that cyber security is a risk, but it always seems to come down to: don’t worry, the really smart people will take care of everything. A ship has a built in air gap: the most impenetrable form of cyber security ever devised… why not keep it that way?

Here’s Vice’s short piece on what the Israeli’s know is possible: VICE

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GE put all its applies in the “internet of things” basket…and they failed miserably. Certain things in life do not need to be connected to the internet.

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like ship systems, for example.

The internet of things. My butt. I need a fridge that reports its own contents and advertises to me and gives away my consumer habits for free like I need a tapeworm infestation. Like I need a room mate that speaks in memes and doesn’t pay rent or wash dishes. Like I need regular visits from a burgler who reads my diary and publishes it in the paper. Like I need a sex advice columnist from Cosmo on a never-ending skype call in my bedroom. But at least the appliances can’t cause an international ecological disaster and massive loss of life.

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My Little Town here in Florida got talked into installing a “Smart Grid” System made and maintained by GE. After almost 5 tears it’s still not working as advertised. Most of the problem comes from the Automation working reliably and consistently.

On paper it looked great. They could monitor usage in real time and also tell if anyone decided to try to bypass the meter. It was also supposed to allow the consumer to monitor their usage to enable them to be more efficient. From attending meetings on this system, the only part of this great plan that works is to allow them to shut down power at a given address from the control room.

My Town as had to threaten to take legal action to get GE to better support and repair this system. As of writing this, the system is still not working as advertised but GE has talked them into signing a longer and more expensive contract so they can fix the POS!

If a major company such as GE can’t figure out why their system can’t or won’t work for a Small City how do or better yet how can we trust anyone like them to supply a system to move a ship from one point to another Thousands of Miles distant with out Crashing?

Maybe we should have had a system built in Europe or better yet Norway.