Windows and critical systems

I’ve blogged previously about using Windows in critical systems ( Win2k in French air-force fighters and British attack submarines ) and my disregard for this platform in these kinds of applications. Honestly, would you really want a Windows machine running your life-support system when in hospital? or the device that decides whether or not a nuclear missile is launched?

Well it appears that it’s being used in more areas of critical application than most are aware. Windows machines at Aussie power utility Integral Energy have been taken ‘off the grid’ ( yes excuse the pun ) due to the virus W32.Virut.CF. Let me repeat, these are Windows workstations. Windows. Got that? Sure? Windows.

According to Slashdot and The Inquirer, these machines were being used as X-Terminals for the operator consoles of the SCADA system which runs on Sun Solaris. The mind boggles as to why a Unix X terminal was not used. Apparently more than 1000 machines were taken down by the virus and have had to be re-imaged due to the particularly virulent nature of this virus ( I’ve had personal experience with this one ).

Some consultants have taken a look at the I.E. network and indicated there was insufficient segregation ( or none at all in cases ) between the general IT network and the secure network that controls and monitors the electrical power infrastructure. The anti-virus package supposedly has had a signature for this virus since early this year so either it’s ineffective, can’t deal with a strain of the virus or just has not been updated.

Windows can be secured ( to a degree ) if properly managed, however there seems to be a certain lax attitude to using it and therefore the results cause Windows to become more and more maligned every day. We all know Windows is insecure by default – so work around this and make sure that it’s effectively quarantined when used in critical areas.