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From Targets of Opportunity to Ground Zero

By Kevin Coleman -- Defense Tech Cyberwarfare correspondent

Programmable logic controllers, SCADA systems and other computerized control systems have become common throughout our critical infrastructure.

The demand for computerized industrial control within the United States is expected to exceed $16 billion by the end of 2011.  These devices have been a target of opportunity for several years. 

A target of opportunity is a military term that is used to define an objective that, in a combat scenario, presents itself as a possible target in addition to those targets which are considered to be the primary targets of any particular military operation. 

Given these units are now commonly used throughout our critical infrastructure, as well as in military facilities and critical assets like aircraft carriers to control their infrastructure, these targets of opportunity have moved to a high-value targets for cyber attacks.

The Stuxnet attack is a game changer.  This hybrid worm was specifically designed to attack the process control systems used in the Iranian nuclear enrichment program as well as the Bushehr nuclear power plant. So the big questions is:  How Prepared Are We?  In a recently released study on critical infrastructure protection it found that the top five safeguards that respondents felt had LESS THAN a high state of readiness were-

  1. Security training
  2. Awareness and appreciation of the threat by executive management
  3. Endpoint security measures
  4. Security response
  5. Complete security audit
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