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Mexico's Critical Infrastructure May be Vulnerable to Hackers


Mexico's critical infrastructure may be vulnerable to an attack from hackers, due to the use of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) control systems, the country’s Excelsior newspaper has reported.

The September 23 report cited an attack on Iran back in June 2010, in which hackers took advantage of weaknesses in SCADA systems and may have set back the country’s nuclear program by three years. SCADA is used by Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and the National Water Commission (Conagua), among other agencies, the newspaper said.

Siemens, the company that created the software, says it has provided some 500 SCADA networks in Mexico. These communicate through wireless connections or through GPRS (general packet radio service) over longer distances.

Alejandro Loza, a security expert with computer security software company Symantec, told the paper that these types of connections are vulnerable.

According to Conagua documents, SCADA is used to remotely control the Cutzamala system, which provides water to Michoacán State, the Federal District, and the State of Mexico. The system, with remote controls, is also used in a wastewater treatment plant in Atotonilco. In Acapulco, Conagua is installing a $115,000 USD SCADA system for "starting and stopping pumping equipment to avoid leaks."

The documents made no mention of the security of the connections for these facilities.

Pemex uses SCADA in 18,000 points of measurement in three systems -- exploration and production, gas and basic petrochemicals, and refining, according to Víctor Domínguez Cuéllar, pipeline sub-director for Pemex Gas and Petrochemical.

He said that the oil company is in the process of integrating these, which, when added to the first stage of the system, will cost a total of around $345 million USD.

Pemex’s SCADA software allows remote monitoring and management of systems across the country from the head office in the Federal District.


This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.