DHS chief: What we learned from Stuxnet

Janet Napolitano says private sector needs to 'increase the rapidity of response' to threats

If there's a lesson to be learned from last year's Stuxnet worm, it's that the private sector needs to be able to respond quickly to cyber-emergencies, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday.

"The key thing we learnt from Stuxnet was the need for rapid response across the private sector," DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told engineering students at the University of California, Berkeley. "There, we need to increase the rapidity of response, because in that area -- as in several other recent attacks -- we've seen very, very sophisticated, very, very novel ways of attacking. When you're getting at control systems, now you're really talking [about] taking things over, so this is an area of deep concern for us."

Although nobody knows who created Stuxnet, many believe that it opened a new chapter in the annals of cybersecurity: the first worm written to destroy factory control systems. On Monday, Iran said it had been hit with a second worm, called Stars,, but security experts aren't sure that it really falls into the same class as Stuxnet.

Stuxnet was a watershed event, according to Napolitano.

When Stuxnet hit, the U.S. Deparment of Homeland security was sent scrambling to analyze the threat. Systems had to be flown in from Germany to the federal government's Idaho National Laboratory. In short order the worm was decoded, but for some time, many companies that owned Siemens equipment were left wondering what, if any measures, they should take to protect themselves from the new worm.

Both Siemens and the DHS group responsible for communicating with operators of industrial systems (the ICS-CERT, or Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team) could have been better at getting information out to the public, said Bob Radvanovsky, a security expert.

ICS-CERT has never posted information that wasn't already known to members of his discussion list, who share information amongst each other, he said

Radvanovsky is the moderator of the Scadasec discussion list, an open forum for discussions about cyber security in industrial systems. "Both industry and government fail to understand the value of the Internet," he said.

With Stuxnet, neither Siemens nor DHS itself were the ones to explain that the worm was actually built to target -- and then destroy -- a particular industrial facility. That work was done by security researchers at Symantec, Kaspersky Lab, and -- most notably -- by security expert, Ralph Langner

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags siemenssecurityU.S. Department of Homeland Securityenergygovernmentindustry verticals

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?