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Attacker says SCADA system was protected by three-character password

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A second SCADA-based system at a US water plant was hit in recent days, with revelations made by the attacker that it was controlled by a three-character password.

The attacker, using the alias 'Pr0f', hit the plant in Harris County in Houston, Texas. In a statement on Pastebin he said his actions were in response to what he felt were attempts by the US Department of Homeland Security to downplay the threat of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. This was following another attack on a water plant in Illinois.

Pr0f told Threatpost that the district had 'human machine interface' software to manage water and sewage infrastructure accessible to the internet, and the password used to protect the system was just three characters long.

Asked by SC Magazine what he thought of this discovery, Pr0f said he was "somewhat shocked", but added that he had previously seen databases protected by the password '@dmin' and companies using their names as passwords for workstations.

“There are multiple government and corporate websites out there that are vulnerable to basic SQL injection, which can be performed with a web browser and little to no knowledge,” he said.

He also said in his Pastebin statement that this was "barely a hack" as "a child who knows how the HMI that comes with Simatic works could have accomplished this".

He added: "I didn't use a completely new type of attack, just the same kind of thing that has been around since the 1980s, though I will say there was a lot of hype about Stuxnet being the be-all and end-all of malware, although it was incredibly clever in terms of the PLC rootkit, and probably required insider knowledge of the system it was attacking.”

Pr0f told Threatpost that he discovered the vulnerable system using a scanner that looks for the online fingerprints of SCADA systems.

Asked by SC Magazine if he was looking to target anything in particular in his 'campaign', he said: “I'd rather not divulge a huge amount about the technical details in the interest of at least semi-responsible disclosure. I don't want other people with malicious intentions to replicate this attack. But yes, I was specifically looking for a SCADA system.”

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