Emergency services conference tackles critical infrastructure issues

Australia's only officially recorded attack on critical infrastructure will be dissected and analyzed next week at the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) annual conference.

The attack on Queensland's Maroochy Water Services in April 2000 saw multiple pump station shutdowns sending millions of litres of raw sewage spilling into local parks, rivers and the grounds of hotel resorts.

After an extensive investigation, an ex-employee of a supplier to Maroochy Water Services was found guilty of hacking into the SCADA control system 46 times. He was later charged with 30 offences, fined and sentenced to two years jail.

The hack resulted in cleanup costs of around $13,000 and an extra $176,000 for additional monitoring and security for Maroochy Shire Council.

The hacker, an ex-employee of Hunter Watertech was aiming for a contract position within Maroochy Water Services to correct system faults he was later found to be responsible for. After being refused the position the hacker then began sabotaging the sewage management system by remotely accessing the system and messaging various pumps to shut down.

In early stages of the investigation a radio ham was thought to be the culprit; however, once internal investigators discovered the messages could not be sent without specialized equipment, system analysts were employed to find out where the system was failing.

Maroochy Shire Council then had to prove that messages did not originate from their equipment and they started recording the messages. When the police became involved they were able to match the time and date stamp of sent messages to the ones received by Maroochy Shire Council. The hacker had left all historic information on his hard drive, because he did not think he would get caught.

At the conference, the IT team from Maroochy Shire Council will detail the practical examples and measures of how to protect against such incidents. The APCO conference is being held from February 13 to 15, 2006, on Queensland's Gold Coast.

Other speakers at the Technisyst-sponsored event include the Defence Signals Directorate, Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Queensland Emergency Services and NSW Department of Commerce.

A wide range of international speakers will discuss emergency response challenges to events such as Hurricane Katrina and there will also be presenters from the UK on London's response to the July 2005 bombings.

For more information go to www.apcoaust.com.au

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