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Hacking the Hadron
September 13, 2008 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Hackers attack Large Hadron Collider Hackers have mounted an attack on the Large Hadron Collider, raising concerns about the security of the biggest experiment in the world as it passes an important new milestone.
posted by fixedgear (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is the third LHC post this month! How long until we reach singularity?
posted by sciurus at 4:20 PM on September 13, 2008


Seems like a perfectly interesting story to me.

Also:

New York Times misses by one letter
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:33 PM on September 13, 2008 [8 favorites]


very mildly nsfw I guess
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:34 PM on September 13, 2008


I'm gonna be pretty pissed if some script kiddie destroys the universe.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


People are idiots.
posted by batmonkey at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2008


Why the hell would you have something like that connected to the internet? Surely that is dumber than hell?
posted by Brockles at 4:48 PM on September 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a hacker.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:50 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Why the hell would you have something like that connected to the internet? Surely that is dumber than hell?
posted by ~ at 5:01 PM on September 13, 2008 [12 favorites]


Screw this, I'm throwing pbars at it until it blows up.
posted by eriko at 5:03 PM on September 13, 2008


dude, CERN is the internet.

But yeah, they should invest in some firewalls, black hole routing, and probably a parallel network that isn't routable to the internet.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:04 PM on September 13, 2008


The Hadron Collider is connected to the fucking internet?

I knew Bonzi Buddy would somehow destroy planet earth, I just didn't think it would be this easy for him.
posted by fire&wings at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not surprised that the data would be online - I mean, this is a gigantic international undertaking, and folks across the world are going to want in on the data. But is the control system really online? The article didn't seem clear to me.

I'm not sure why you think this'll be deleted. The third post on LHC this month, maybe, but it's certainly new news.
posted by echo target at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2008


Serious question: What's the worst thing that could happen if hackers got control of it?
posted by empath at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2008


I mean, aside from the destruction of the universe.
posted by empath at 5:24 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Particle physics experiments like the LHC depend on international collaborations. One of the things that make international collaborations possible is the web, which is why they invented it.

As with most stories about the LHC, this is a bit of a beat up.
posted by zamboni at 5:27 PM on September 13, 2008


As long as this still says "Nope," I'm cool.

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:28 PM on September 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well. I never thought Rick Astley would be the last thing I'd hear before I die, but I think I'm OK with that.
posted by saturnine at 5:31 PM on September 13, 2008 [9 favorites]


The stupidity of someone who would run a webserver on a piece of equipment connected to an important scientific experiment boggles the mind.

Seriously, people, I understand that it's important to put the experiment on the internet, but don't run anything else whatsoever on the machine that can access that data. Especially not a webserver. I mean, I wouldn't even run a webserver on a machine if it had my only copy of my MP3 collection or something.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:36 PM on September 13, 2008


I love the idea of hacking the LHC, but it's no good until those tunnels can be aimed at something. And since we can't move the tunnels, we'll just have to figure out how the move the earth, deathstar-style, to turn this toy into a death-ray.

The ransom is One Miiiillion Dollars!
posted by -harlequin- at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2008




Somewhat unrelated, but what's the point of the explosion button on the CMS website?
posted by pravit at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2008


I mean, aside from the destruction of the universe.

Granted, that's a worst-case scenario. The destruction might, in fact, be very localized, limited merely to our own galaxy.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm reminded of the portion of the Cuckoo's Egg where he realizes the hacker has stumbled into the operations of a medical control computer (PET) and his concerns of what might happen.

In any case, it sounds more scary than it looks in reviewing that article.
posted by meinvt at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2008


It makes perfect sense to have the LHC connected to the internet. A.T.L.A.S., the senor at the collision point generates about a million gigabytes of information per second, even if most of this information is automatically tossed away, it is an overwhelming amount of data to pour through, and more importantly, it is an overwhelming amount of data to move without using a network, and if you need to get this data to scientists around the world, the Internet is the only way to do it. The people at CERN know what they're doing. If you read the article, it says that they are using a "defense in depth" strategy, which means that everything is behind firewalls, and the really important things are behind multiple firewalls.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:38 PM on September 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Don't fuck with the guys from CERN. They'll FTP a black hole to your house.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:40 PM on September 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


Oh bullshit. C'mon, your telling me that people who have the capability to manipulate code sequencing and line traverse is such a way as to be able to make their way back into CERN are unable to think of anything better to do with those skills?

I mean, I get the whole "because it was there" thing, but this is powergaming. Impressive but ordinary.

So I'm impressed. Now do something about Fox News.
posted by humannaire at 9:51 PM on September 13, 2008


"I love the idea of hacking the LHC,"

Why?

Honestly. They're spending all kinds of money, the guys in the lab have gone through years and years of training and hard work, and for that they get to spend tens of hours upon hours doing tedious demanding work with an intricate piece of equipment that's built and fixed by other guys who probably want to be with their families too rather than watching to see if some esoteric component gets .0001 bit out of alignment, all to do careful observation to form theories and hash them all over and maybe get them acrimoniously torn down while begging for funding and dodging ignorant nutcases and extremist assholes and luddites to come up with some final product that moves the horizons of physics just a bit further for the benefit of all mankind - just so some jag off with a home computer and low self esteem can come along and try to fuck it up so maybe his fake screen name gets mentioned a few more times on some blog somewhere and people have to spend even more resources, time, money and energy tracking the idiots down and plugging the holes in a security system they shouldn't need in the first place because people should realize that it's theirs, and for them, part of the commons, and shouldn't be ruined?

Meanwhile there's wars, innocent people being killed all the time, children being lured and perhaps molested, corrupt corporations screwing everyone every which way dumping loads of crap into the land, sea, air, and YOUR drinking water and they decide to hack the one machine that is specifically designed for one of the most altruistic reasons on Earth?

Yeah, excuse me, I'm going to go make people know my name by firing bricks through hospital windows, how dare those fuckers try to heal people while they don't have bars and steel shutters and a gate around the place.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:57 PM on September 13, 2008 [32 favorites]


Cern relies on a 'defence-in-depth' strategy, separating control networks and using firewalls and complex passwords, to protect its control systems from malicious software, such as denial-of-service attacks, botnets and zombie machines, which can strike with a synchronised attack from hundreds of machines around the world.

Translation: Hackers can't get to the actual atom smasher. But they could certainly fuck up the data collection, which is the whole point of the massive thing.
posted by Jilder at 10:07 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why?

Pissing contest. Hack the smartest people on the planet, if you can. I'm willing to bet at least one college dropout had a hand in this. Makes sense to me, anyway.
posted by trondant at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2008


Smedleyman: Thanks for that. Don't ever change.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:13 PM on September 13, 2008


thebestsophist: It makes perfect sense to have the LHC connected to the internet.

I can understand why they need to do that. However, they shouldn't have put the webserver on a network that handled their research data. Webservers are the focal point for attacks and they're incredibly dangerous - they should only be connected to the data network in so far as they are both on the same internet. That's how isolated the webserver should be from anything else.

The people at CERN know what they're doing.

Obviously not completely, they did get hacked, and the hackers seemed rather incompetent. A competent crew could have affected their data, and there's no excuse for that even being possible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:27 PM on September 13, 2008


Why the hell would you have something like that connected to the internet? Surely that is dumber than hell?

They need to talk to universities to process all this data. The LHC doesnt work without the internet. This system is referred to as The Grid. I wouldnt be surprised if the attack came from within a "trusted" university. University of Athens anyone?

Supposedly, only a monitoring webserver outside the LHC network was hacked. These things usually have a one way configuration anyway. Hack the box all you like, the network wont let you talk back to the system. Yeah, thats "one step" away but without cracking those routers and firewalls, youre not getting in there.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:59 PM on September 13, 2008


This is somewhat of an overblown story. The webserver was not on any equipment connected to the scientific experiment, it was on a server on an entirely different network, a DMZ, designed obviously to be exposed to the internet.

However, it was a webserver publishing live data from another network, which did have access to one of the detector control networks, via an access limiting firewall. Basically, the webserver could access an intermediary server in a limited fashion to retrieve data coming from the detector, which was then shared to others in the scientific community via this webserver. The webserver was never on the network which handles the research data, but it did have access to a dataserver on the research network via a firewall.

What appears to have happened is someone used one of the logins from a member of the scientific community to log in and deface a small part of the website. Not exactly a skilled hack.

The next step would have been to exploit the web-software or the web-server application in some way to give themselves shell access. They would then need to figure out some sort of exploit in the software to give themselves root access. Depending on how well patched up the webserver was, that could have been relatively easy or near impossible. this would give them access and control of the webserver itself.

They would then need to break into the C&C network for the detector, when they only had limited and restricted access to a portion of the data it was creating via a firewall specificaly designed to stop people breaking in. Good luck with that.

Yes, it's 'only one network away' from the webserver, but that's not telling the whole story. This was a script-kiddie with a valid login scribbling his drivel on a webserver. He didn't hack into anything important, dangerous or scary.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:16 PM on September 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


damn dirty ape: I'm told the data was read-only, and the access system could only ever be read only - there were no higher priviledge accounts on the only route the firewall allowed. The data itself is of course freely published, so it's not like the hackers got into anything secret. They would have had to crack the firewall itself to gain further access to the C&C network, and affect the data and the detector, with only limited ports available.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:22 PM on September 13, 2008


"Well. I never thought Rick Astley would be the last thing I'd hear before I die, but I think I'm OK with that."

Can't. Stop. Laughing. Thanks for that.
posted by bardic at 11:23 PM on September 13, 2008


In other news, I found this webpage that posts up to date info on what exactly is the activity at the LHC, basically from hour to hour. Most of it is pretty gibberish but interesting info nonetheless; for example yesterday the thirteenth they had a pretty big problem with some generator and a shortfall of 400 volt, to run the cryo systems I guess.

https://lhc-commissioning.web.cern.ch/lhc-commissioning/dailynews/index.htm

Also another status page, this one updates every 12 seconds, but I can't figure out what I'm looking at. There are however a small 'twitter' comment once in a while with an update.

http://ab-dep-op.web.cern.ch/ab-dep-op/vistar.php?usr=LHC

So basically some completely up to date info which most of us cannot parse but which may be of interest for die-hard LHC fans.
posted by Catfry at 2:08 AM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are however a small 'twitter' comment once in a while with an update.

OMG I MADE BLACK HOLE. BRB
posted by darkripper at 6:17 AM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Didn't they just get through to the website bit?
posted by diaperdad at 8:12 AM on September 14, 2008


empath: Serious question: What's the worst thing that could happen if hackers got control of it?

A large chunk of the supeconducting magnets at Fermilab quenched at the same time it 2003. The beam cut a hole through one piece of steel, etched a groove in another and then failed. I imagine that the worst case scenario is that the beam tears a hole in one of the detectors, causing several million dollars worth of damage and forcing a few months of downtime.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:58 AM on September 14, 2008


Actually, I was wrong, the worst case scenario has already happened, due to media hysteria. Which leads me to a new prediction about the LHC: sensational media coverage will be implicated in more injuries and deaths than beam operations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2008


The hackers were Greek, the message is in Greek, and it's breathtakingly inane. Pretty much it's a group of (teenage I'd wager) hackers, desperately needing a life, announcing to the world (actually to the claustrophobic, infantile, Greek speaking, substantially emotionally reduced version of the world they inhabit), how lame some other n00b group of Greek hackers is and how poor Greek government (!) website security is.

Panayiotis Vryonis has a brief summary of the message's contents. So as ArkhanJG says, this was indeed a script-kiddie with a valid login scribbling his drivel on a webserver.
posted by talos at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2008


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