The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is refuting claims that an incident at an Illinois water plant was the result of a cyber attack.
The DHS issued a statement saying that reports last week of a remote hijacking of a supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) system causing the failure of a water pump were untrue and that no cyber attack is believed to have taken place.
"There is no evidence to support claims made in initial reports – which were based on raw, unconfirmed data and subsequently leaked to the media – that any credentials were stolen, or that the vendor was involved in any malicious activity that led to a pump failure at the water plant," the DHS said.
The statement comes days after security researchers claimed that internal documents indicated that the pump failure was the result of a security breach. They suggested that an attacker had accessed the Scada unit used to control the pump and then caused the pump to fail.
Reports also suggested that the incident had been traced back to a system in Russia. That claim was also denied by the DHS.
While the DHS has ruled out cyber attack in this case, security experts note that many systems are still vulnerable to sabotage. Dave Marcus, head of research and communications for McAfee Labs, told V3 that many firms remain vulnerable to the exact type of attack first thought to have been behind the pump failure.
"I do not think companies could become any more complacent about protecting these networks," Marcus said.
"Whether or not this incident was a cyber attack is irrelevant if the network is vulnerable."
Scada units and other embedded hardware have become a focal point of security research and discussion in recent months. Researchers have noted that poorly-secured embedded controllers can be vulnerable to outside intrusion, leading to larger attacks on infrastructure.
"I think there are more discussions going on and I think that is a good start," Marcus said. "There are some companies that already do a good job of protecting their Scada networks."
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