Researchers Warn of Prison Hacks, Opening Cell Doors

Type threatpost
Reporter Chris Brook
Modified 2013-04-17T16:33:23


In news that seems like it could be lifted from an old 24 or Prison Break plotline, authorities are concerned by new research that claims hackers could remotely open the cell doors of federal prisons.

In addition to staging a jailbreak, hackers could sabotage a prison’s intercom system and closed-circuit television system to cause further nightmares for federal authorities.

The panic stems from research presented at the Hacker Halted conference in Miami last month by John Strauchs, a consultant who’s designed security systems for state and federal prisons, his daughter, attorney, professor and security researcher Tiffany Rad and Teague Newman.

In an interview with the Washington Times last weekend, a spokesman from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Chris Burke, told reporter Shaun Waterman the agency was “aware of this research and taking it very seriously.”

The research team tested their work in the basement of a Washington D.C.-area home for under $2,500 before discussing their research with authorities over the summer at CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia, according to the report.

Sean P. McGurk, formerly with the Department of Homeland Security, echoed the concern and verified that certain industrial control systems, while usually not connected to the internet, were connected to the internet in every one of the 400+ inspections DHS conducted while he assumed office. In some instances the same computer employees checked their e-mail on were the same computers that had connections to select control systems.

When it comes to ICS security, loads of digital ink has been spilled over Stuxnet and in the last month or so, Duqu, worms that can remotely reprogram and manipulate programmable logic controls. The systems at federal prisons could behave in a similar way, putting them at risk to an attack via USB stick or if a hole is found in an internet connection.

For the full story, head to the Washington Times.