Hackers in the Large Hadron Collider

2008-09-16

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Science, Security

Apparently, hackers managed to take control of a website related to the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment: one of the five detectors within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This isn’t terribly surprising, since high profile websites get vandalized reasonably frequently. What is rather more disturbing is that the hackers were apparently “one step away” from the control system of the detector itself. While I don’t know the details of the design, not connecting the computers that control the machine to the internet would seem like an elementary precaution. Not connecting them to publicly accessible web servers, even more so.

Apparently, the beams circulating in the LHC will eventually have as much kinetic energy as an aircraft carrier going 12 knots – all concentrated into bunches circling the accelerator 11,000 times per second. Preventing outside access to the control systems for the sensors that will make sense of all the data seems like common sense, even if the output from those sensors is getting sent around the world for analysis.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

zoom! September 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

What would be the worst thing that could happen if hackers were to seize control of the thing?

Milan September 16, 2008 at 9:31 pm

My guess is that the worst case scenario is severe damage to the equipment. If someone screwed up the beam calibration, high energy protons might be made to smash into expensive pieces of gear.

Milan September 16, 2008 at 9:32 pm
Sarah September 17, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I hope they were crazed theoretical physicists attempting to create a black hole and/or time machine.

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