There's more than money at stake


A recent story about a laptop at a Pennsylvania water plant being hacked is just the most recent example of something that really concerns me - infrastructure hacking.

I'm not very plugged into any infrastructure (water systems, electrical grids, major transportation systems) to be an expert on it, but I've read a little bit about how these systems are frighteningly out of date, and I think it's no secret that largely, government departments are supposed to take the lowest bid for any work done. After a conversation I had with somebody in the know, I was made aware of a lot of really important places that have failing components that were made by vendors that no longer exist. The list of vendors willing to make new widgets of the same type are really short, so these vendors can basically charge whatever they want.

First of all, any vendor who tries to take advantage of such situations and begins to charge something beyond what is fair (c'mon, be reasonable, at least) should be charged with treason. But that's not the point of the article.

I know it might be easy in some cases to commit some sort of physical sabotage to infrastructure, but I'm guessing that there might be an increase in electronic sabotage of the same, and not just from a perspective of espionage, but from the perspective of actually making the buttons pushed or the switches flipped that will damage the infrastructure.

There's a Simpson's episode where Homer gets up to 300 pounds, claims disability, and gets to work at home. His job then consists of repeatedly answering a really simple question like "Reactor is getting hot, would you like it cooler (Y/N)?" So he keeps pressing "Y". Then has a toy do his job for him. I don't remember everything about the episode, but we make working from home really simple. I wonder how many critical operations are operable from home, where the lawn guy could come in and push the red, shiny, candy-like button that turns off the water supply to the eastern third of the United States.

Like I say, I'm not enough in the know to really be able to say that these things are that susceptible. And the Forth programmers I've met before are super sharp people. And Y2K kinda' proved that the Forth guys weren't all that dull, but it's not the Forth programmers that scare me, it's the 19 year old hotshots who decide to set up a web interface back into the water purification plant that scare me. (Not that I'm aware of any 19 year old hotshots who've decided to put a web interface back into a water purification plant, either. It's just an example).