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2011's biggest security snafus

Ellen Messmer | Dec. 2, 2011
Perhaps it was an omen of what was to come when the city of San Francisco on New Year's Eve 2010 couldn't get a backup system running in its Emergency Operations Center because no one knew the password.

Can you hear me now?

Verizon's 4G LTE network, which came online in December 2010, suffered a nationwide outage. They weren't the only one last year. The four-day global outage of the BlackBerry data services in October was not the kind of attention that RIM wanted, already struggling to keep the BlackBerry looking smart in the face of the Apple iPhone publicity barrage. But when RIM's "dual-redundant, dual-capacity core switch" failed and its backup failed to activate, causing BlackBerry users around the world to either receive weak or no service at all, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was compelled to issue a public apology to customers, acknowledging the outage as the worst in the company's history.

In November, Internet outages were briefly suffered across North America and Europe that were apparently related to bugs in Juniper routers receiving a Border gateway protocol update, impacting carriers such as Level3. A reminder about how easy it can be to lose what most of us take for granted every day.

Not exactly floating on a cloud either ...

Microsoft BPOS cloud-hosted communications and collaboration suite suffered an outage in June, while Amazon's EC2 service in April suffered availability issues and a shorter outage in August. VMware's Cloud Foundry service suffered an outage in beta. And don't forget Northrop Grumman. It agreed to pay almost $5 million to 26 Virginia state agencies after an outage related to data-center services it was providing to them.

Russian cyberattack on Illinois water facility, or just a contractor who happened to be on a trip to Russia?

Was it a foreign cyberattack originating from an IP address in Russia that hit an internal SCADA system at the Curran-Gardner Townships Public Water District in central Illinois, causing a water pump, turned on and off remotely, to burn out in November? The Illinois Statewide Terrorism & Intelligence Center (STIC) issued a confidential report to this effect, which was leaked in November by energy industry analyst and author Joe Weiss who read its contents to a reporter at the Washington Post. But in the media uproar that followed, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said it investigated the Illinois STIC claims and could find nothing to validate them. Sources say the network access from Russia is now linked to a contractor working for Curran-Gardner Townships Public Water District who happened to be in Russia when he remotely accessed Curran-Gardner's network. But DHS indicates "analysis of the incident is ongoing ..."

The data-breach hit parade of 2011

- The so-called "Sony hack" in April allowed hackers to get customer information for 77 million members of Sony's online PlayStation network, including credit-card numbers, an act that forced Sony to take down its service. In May, Sony said the attack cost it $170 million.


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