The Cost of a Non-Malicious Control System Cyber Incident – More Than $1Billion

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Joe Weiss

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There is a tendency by many in the cyber security community to only care about malicious cyber attacks as opposed to unintentional cyber incidents.

April 9th, 2015, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) $1.6 BILLION for the September 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline rupture that killed 8 and destroyed a neighborhood (there are also 28 federal criminal charges and numerous other fines and penalties). This was not a malicious cyber attack but an unintentional control system cyber incident. The incident occurred following scheduled PG&E maintenance on the local SCADA system that resulted in the over-pressurization of a pipeline with a previously unknown weakness.

As PG&E did not immediately have the locations of the required manual shut-off valves following the pipe rupture, PG&E has now installed more than 200 gas valves that can be controlled remotely. Remote shut-off valves increase the threat attack surface. Considering San Bruno was not the first pipeline rupture that was cyber-related, there is a need to consider cyber and physical security protections of all pipelines using remote-automated shut-off valves. This should include known cyber vulnerabilities that affect pipeline operations such as Aurora and appropriate control system cyber security policies and procedures.

This was cross-posted from the Unfettered blog. 

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