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b2ap3_thumbnail_hack_attack_manufacturing_400.jpgWhen you think of viruses and malware, you think of attacks on a digital scale. An attack in the digital world can’t do anything in the physical world, right? It turns out that hacking can lead to bigger problems, like the recent meltdown of a blast furnace at a German steel mill.

WIRED magazine reports that just before Christmas of 2014, a German steel company experienced a hacking attack unlike any other. What the hackers were after isn’t apparent, but the results of the hack were devastating for the company.

The hacks led to the destruction of the blast furnace, a primary piece of equipment in the steel mill. These are generally fueled by some sort of ore, and are used for smelting or producing industrial metals. They wield an uncanny amount of firepower, so imagine the amount of damage that could be done if one were to be disrupted. The normal hacker might have only made off with some sensitive information, but in this case, their hacks turned into a much larger problem for the business.

This is reminiscent of the attack on Stuxnet in 2010, which is considered to be the first case of a cyber attack causing physical damage to workplace equipment:

The first case, of course, was Stuxnet, the sophisticated digital weapon the U.S. and Israel launched against control systems in Iran in late 2007 or early 2008 to sabotage centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant. That attack was discovered in 2010, and since then experts have warned that it was only a matter of time before other destructive attacks would occur. Industrial control systems have been found to be rife with vulnerabilities, though they manage critical systems in the electric grid, in water treatment plants and chemical facilities and even in hospitals and financial networks. A destructive attack on systems like these could cause even more harm than at a steel plant.

According to the official attack report, the hackers first managed to get into the steel mill’s business network, then used it as a jumping point to the system controlling the machinery (including the blast furnace). The hackers were then able to access the corporate network using a simple spear phishing technique, where they sent out emails to upper-level executives requesting login credentials.

Finally, the hackers compromised several different systems using the stolen credentials. Whether or not the hackers meant to cause the destruction of the blast furnace isn’t clear, but the fact remains that, due to a hacking attack, this company can’t function without dishing out a ton of dough for repairs or replacement machinery.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from this hack, it’s that a cyber attack can lead to the destruction of mission-critical equipment that is essential for your business. Therefore, maximum network security is always recommended. No matter how minor a threat is, it could have unforeseen consequences for your business.

NTConnections understands how to provide the comprehensive security necessary for running a small or medium-sized business. We call it our Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution. It’s a proactive approach to network security, designed to keep threats out of your system, so they don’t have the opportunity to cause unnecessary damage. You’ll get to take advantage of a firewall, antivirus, spam blocking, and content filtering solutions, all designed to keep your business as secure as possible. Give us a call at (703) 288-9767 to learn more.