Hackers hit LHC computer system
Hackers have mounted an attack on the Large Hadron Collider, raising concerns about the security of the biggest experiment in the world as it passes an important new milestone.
Now it has emerged that, as the first particles were circulating in the machine near Geneva, a Greek group had hacked into the facility and displayed a page with the headline "GST: Greek Security Team."
The people responsible signed off: "We are 2600 - dont mess with us. (sic)"
The website - cmsmon.cern.ch - can no longer be accessed by the public as a result of the attack.
Scientists working at Cern, the organisation that runs the vast smasher, were worried about what the hackers could do because they were "one step away" from the computer control system of one of the huge detectors of the machine, a vast magnet that weighs 12,500 tons, measuring around 21 metres in length and 15 metres wide/high.
If they had hacked into a second computer network, they could have turned off parts of the vast detector and, said the insider, "it is hard enough to make these things work if no one is messing with it."
Fortunately, only one file was damaged but one of the scientists firing off emails as the CMS team fought off the hackers said it was a "scary experience".
The hackers targeted the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment, or CMS, one of the four "eyes" of the facility that will be analysing the fallout of the Big Bang.
The CMS team of around 2,000 scientists is racing with another team that runs the Atlas detector, also at Cern, to find the Higgs particle, one that is responsible for mass.
The scientists behind the £4.4bn atom smasher had already received threatening emails and been besieged by telephone calls from worried members of the public concerned by speculation that the machine could trigger a black hole to swallow the earth, or earthquakes and tsunamis, despite endless reassurances to the contrary from the likes of Prof Stephen Hawking.
"There seems to be no harm done. From what they can tell, it was someone making the point that CMS was hackable," said James Gillies, spokesman for Cern. "It was quickly detected."
"We have several levels of network, a general access network and a much tighter network for sensitive things that operate the LHC," said Gillies.
"We are a very visible site," he said, adding that of the 1.4 million emails sent to Cern yesterday, 98 per cent was spam.
The hacking attempt started around the time that the giant machine was about to circulate its first particles, under the spotlight of the world's media.
On Wednesday afternoon, as the world held its breath as the machine sparked up, CMS team members were scouring computers at the machine for half a dozen files uploaded by the hackers on September 9 and 10.
"We think that someone from Fermilab's Tevatron (the competing atom smasher in America) had their access details compromised," said one of the scientists working on the machine. "What happened wasn't a big deal, just goes to show people are out there always on the prowl."
The CMS team studied the files inserted by the hackers carefully before deleting, in case a "backdoor" had been installed, a means of access to the computer that bypasses security.
The system the hackers managed to access was CMSMON, which monitors the CMS software system as the vast detector takes data, during collisions between particles to study the energies and physics in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang, which created the universe.
Cern relies on a 'defence-in-depth' strategy, separating control networks and using firewalls and complex passwords, to protect its control systems from malicious software, such as denial-of-service attacks, botnets and zombie machines, which can strike with a synchronised attack from hundreds of machines around the world.
However, there have been growing concerns about security as remote or wireless access, notebooks and USB sticks offer new possibilities for a virus or worms to enter the network, not to mention hackers and terrorists who might be interested in targeting computers to shutdown the system.
More than 110 different control systems are used at Cern. These systems monitor, supervise and safeguard Cern's accelerators, experiments and infrastructure - from buildings, electricity and heating to access control, radiation protection and safety.
To refine security methods Cern set up a working group called Computing and Network Infrastructure for Controls. One document written by the group said: "Recent events show that computer security issues are becoming a serious problem also at Cern."
However, the team said yesterday that it did not want to comment on security at the international facility.
SOURCE : telegraph
According to The Telegraph newspaper, the group, calling itself the "Greek Security Team," left behind a half a dozen files on the system and damaged one CERN file, in addition to displaying the page above on the cmsmon.cern.ch website, which still remained inaccessible as of Friday. Somewhat disconcertingly, one of the scientists working at CERN simply described the incident as a "scary experience," with a CERN spokesperson further adding that they thought it was just someone "making the point that [the system] was hackable." Um, okaaaay.
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