Re: Missing the point, maybe
I don't have any arguments with the general thrust of the article itself. Bad security is probably worse than no security, as it gives the illusion of security and may lead to people assume they don't need to take further measures. We need more articles of this sort to raise awareness. I am just saying that this will be far from the worst problem present, and I gave an example of how poor to non-existent password security really is in many cases.
Security in the industrial automation field tends to range from the bad to the farcical. The main thing which probably prevents more problems from being reported is the relative obscurity of the field and the high cost of the proprietary technology which discourages researchers who don't have the niche background or the budget to probe into it. For example the Schneider M221 is at the extreme budget end of their product line, but things don't get any better from the security perspective with the larger and more expensive kit.
I originally came from the industrial automation field and started reading The Register years ago in order to get a better understanding of what was going on in the IT sector, as I realised that what the industrial automation field needs is a greater injection of IT knowledge and technology.
If I communicated my point poorly, then I apologise. What I am trying to say is that in the scale of IA security problems this is at the lower end and there are far worse things to be found and proven. By all means, keep up publishing stories such as this, as the steady drip, drip, drip, of bad news is the only thing that will spur people and companies into action. The only problem is that I think not enough people in the IA field are reading publications like The Register in order for the message to get through to the people it needs to. An easier way of finding past stories which were connected with industrial automation might be handy, as at present they are simply lumped in with all the other security stories. I don't think your site is set up for stories to have multiple tags however.
In my opinion, the field needs an injection of security technology from the IT industry. The problem is that the major vendors are so focused on vendor lock-in that they continually re-invent the wheel badly, particularly when it comes to security. From their perspective inviting "the wrong type" of IT industry tech risks watering down vendor lock-in such that they can't extract the maximum amount of money possible from customers.
SCADA systems are a subset of industrial automation, much like web servers area subset of the wider IT industry. They tend to get more attention in security news lately because of their use in critical infrastructure such as electric power, petroleum, water, and the like. However most people working in the industrial automation field can go through an entire career without ever laying eyes on a SCADA system.
SCADA systems also tend to get more attention because they use (badly, usually) more IT industry technology such as MS Windows, databases, and the like. In most cases they got an injection of IT tech in the 1990s to replace their previous proprietary platforms but haven't moved on much since then other than to maintain compatibility, and more recent ideas have largely passed them by.
PLCs such as the Schneider M221 may be used in a complete system in conjunction with a SCADA system (e.g. to control a pump the SCADA system is monitoring), but in most general manufacturing they're stand alone. In some ways this is a blessing because they never get networked, but just work quietly running stand alone machines in a factory somewhere. It also means though that they are probably a rich field for finding security vulnerabilities because not as many people have been looking for them, and they are starting to get networked more now for a variety of reasons.
So to sum up, I'm sorry if my earlier post came across differently than I intended. My real point is that in the grand scheme of things though things this example is just barely cracking open the lid on a very large can of worms.