Friday, November 18, 2011

Foreign Hackers Brake Into Illinois Water Plant Control System

Foreign hackers broke into a water plant control system in Illinois last week and damaged a water pump in what may be the first reported case of a malicious cyber attack on a critical computer system in the United States, according to an industry expert.

On Nov. 8, a municipal water district employee in Illinois noticed problems with the city’s water pump control system, and a technician determined the system had been remotely hacked into from a computer located in Russia, said Joe Weiss, an industry security expert who obtained a copy of an Illinois state fusion center report describing the incident.

The city affected was Springfield, Ill., according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Problems with the system had been observed for two to three months and recently the system “would power on and off, resulting in the burnout of a water pump,” the Nov. 10 report from the statewide terrorism and intelligence center stated, according to Weiss, who read the report to The Washington Post.

“This is a big deal,” said Weiss. The report stated it is unknown how many other systems might be affected.

According to the report, hackers apparently broke into a software company’s database and retrieved user names and passwords of various control systems that run water plant computer equipment. Using that data, they were able to hack into the plant in Illinois, Weiss said.

It’s not the first time that two-step technique — hack a security firm to gain the keys to enter other companies or entities — has been used.

Earlier this year, hackers believed to be working from China stole sensitive data from RSA, a division of EMC that provides secure remote computer access to government agencies, defense contractors and other commercial companies around the world. Armed with that data, they breached the computer networks of companies, including Lockheed Martin, whose employees used RSA “tokens” to log in to the corporate system from outside the office. Lockheed said that no sensitive data were taken.

“RSA is the gold standard” for remote access security in industry, said Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, at a conference in Omaha this week. “If they got hacked, where does that leave the rest?”

Alexander noted his concern about “destructive” attacks on critical systems in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security, whose job is to oversee the protection of critical infrastructure such as water utility computer systems in the United States, said that DHS and the FBI are investigating the Illinois incident. “At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in an e-mailed statement.

Read More from the Washington Post

Woman Forced Into Slavery In The U.S.A

CNN) – One was sold by her impoverished parents, the other willingly left her family to become a nanny. But both found years of their lives turned to domestic servitude before finally finding freedom.

CNN's Martin Savidge tells the story of Isabel. Her mother sold her into slavery at around age 7 to a Taiwanese family who later moved to the United States in an upscale southern California neighborhood.

So as other children went to school, Isabel cooked and cleaned. Her bedroom was the garage, her bed the floor. Her food - whatever the family didn't want, often spoiled or soured. And there were the beatings, she says, often with a spatula and once, when her owner accused her of drinking a cup of tea, a toilet bowl brush.

Isabel finally met someone who helped her escape and is now in her 20s and trying to learn what many her age have already mastered: driving a car, ordering at a restaurant, understanding money. No criminal charges were brought against the family who brought Isabel to the U.S. from Taiwan. But she has settled a civil lawsuit with that family and is no longer in touch with them. Watch more of Isabel's story above

CNN's Gena Somra reports on Laome, who was 17 in Nigeria when she thought she was getting an education in the U.S. in exchange for becoming a nanny for a wealthy Nigerian American woman, Bidemi Bello. Instead, she says, she had instead become a slave. Bello, Laome says, instilled that fear in her right from the beginning, abusing her almost every day.

She later escaped with the help of friends, and Bello was brought to trial. Found guilty of human trafficking, Bello faces 11 years behind bars. After that, she will be deported back to Nigeria.

For Laome, she says that with the trial behind her, she is finally free.

Read More From CNN

Tennessee Town Prepares For Annual Santa Train To Give Children A Merry Christmas

They call it Santa's workshop.

For a few hours Wednesday, the front porch of the Eastman Road Food City grocery store was transformed into a dual assembly line where some 200 volunteers of all ages opened, packed, stacked and recycled with ballet-like precision. Their task, preparing much of the cargo for Saturday's 69th annual excursion of the Santa Train.

A joint effort of CSX Corp., the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and Food City, the train is scheduled to make its traditional 110-mile trek distributing gifts at three stops in Eastern Kentucky, nine in Southwest Virginia, and Waycross on the Tennessee-Virginia line before returning to Kingsport. It began in 1943 as a way for Kingsport businesses to thank customers across Appalachia for their support.

Volunteer Catherine Tucker of Kingsport -- sporting a colorful Christmas hat and sweater -- took her place near the head of the candy line, dumping handfuls of treats into a seemingly endless procession of red and tan plastic totes. Wednesday marked her 15th year to volunteer for the effort.

"I love the fact that it's a community event, there are so many people involved in it and we can give back to people in Kentucky and Virginia. To tell them we appreciate the support they've been and the business they do in this area. This is our gift back to them. And I love Christmas," Tucker said without taking her attention from the task at hand.

Nearby, Bill and Jan Helton of Kingsport arrived early for their first visit to Santa's workshop and began by opening hundreds of packages of candy.

"This is our first year. We just wanted to help out," Bill Helton said.

On the opposite side of the assembly line, 86-year-old Bob White took his traditional spot amid a long line of volunteers.

"I can't remember how long I've been doing this -- a long time," the smiling White said. "It's fabulous. It's fantastic to do something for the young people."

On one side of the store, Tucker, the Heltons and White were among those hurriedly adding more and more candy and snacks to advancing bins, before each was closed and loaded onto a waiting tractor-trailer. On the other side, volunteers formed lines and walked between bins dropping in stuffed animals, toy cars, games, books and school supplies.

A steady stream of emptied cardboard boxes filled two large recycling bins.

Light showers failed to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, but did make the task a bit more crowded as hundreds of cardboard boxes were moved further beneath the awning to keep them dry.

Shoppers, meanwhile, maneuvered their carts past the feverish work, with many stopping to observe.

"What are they doing?" asked one man.

"It's for the Santa Train," replied another.

Previously estimated at 15 tons of goodies, this year's cargo will likely exceed that total, Santa Train Coordinator Jamie Horton of Food City said.

"We've probably grown to 20 to 25 tons of items," Horton said. "Kids Wish Network, which is one of our sponsors, has donated generously. It's been wonderful having them join us."

The Florida-based nonprofit has nearly doubled its previous contribution, donating more than $500,000 worth of toys.

Collecting all of those items is a nearly year-round task for Horton and Ed Moore, Food City's director of special projects.

It will all be distributed Saturday at stops along the route and when the train returns to Kingsport in time for that city's traditional Christmas parade.

Read More From Tri Cities News