Software Bug Contributed to Blackout

Real reporting on the events leading to the blackout: SecurityFocus News: Software Bug Contributed to Blackout:

A previously-unknown software flaw in a widely-deployed General Electric energy management system contributed to the devastating scope of the August 14th northeastern U.S. blackout, industry officials revealed this week.

The bug in GE Energy’s XA/21 system was discovered in an intensive code audit conducted by GE and a contractor in the weeks following the blackout, according to FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility where investigators say the blackout began. “It had never evidenced itself until that day,” said spokesman Ralph DiNicola. “This fault was so deeply embedded, it took them weeks of poring through millions of lines of code and data to find it.”

The next day GE Energy acknowledges blackout bug:

A U.S.-Canadian task force investigating the blackout said in November that FirstEnergy employees failed to take steps that could have isolated utility failures because its data-monitoring and alarm computers weren’t working.

Without a functioning emergency management system or the knowledge that it had failed, the company’s system operators “remained unaware that their electrical system condition was beginning to degrade,” the report said.

At the time, task force members said it remained unclear whether the software malfunctioned or if FirstEnergy’s computers had difficulty running it that day.

DiNicola said Thursday that the company, working with GE and energy consultants from Kema Inc., had pinned the trouble on a software glitch by late October and completed its fix by Nov. 19, coincidentally the same day the task force issued its report.

GE Energy spokesman Dennis Murphy said the company distributed a warning and a fix to its more than 100 other customers the following day.

[via Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram]

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