By Nick Farrell
1 October 2009
QUICK THINKING open sourcerers might have saved an Australian power
supply system after its electrical grid control room network got
infected with a virus.
A Windows virus hit the networks of Integral Energy and, according to a
submission to Slashdot, the virus managed to spread to the operator
display consoles in the control room.
Quick thinking techies in the control systems department of the utility
swapped the infected Windows boxes for machines running Linux that they
were using for development.
The move prevented the virus from taking over all the operator displays
in the control room.
There have been a number of government inquiries into the security of
electricity companies worldwide because of the fear that hackers,
terrorists or cyber warriors for a rival country might take control of
electric power grids. Now it would seem that such fears might have been
However in Oz there could be some concern that notoriously insecure
Windows machines were even being used for critical infrastructure
systems. The Slashdot submission says that the power grid's system
control and data acquisition (SCADA) servers run Solaris Unix and the
operator consoles only really need to run X-windows displays. The
question is why the utility would choose to run X on Windows boxes
merely to talk to the UNIX-based SCADA servers that control the
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