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Reporters' Roundtable: Our perilous infrastructure (podcast)

This week, an inconvenient truth: We're talking about our national infrastructure, and how it's a mess from a security perspective thanks in no small part to the Internet. With special guest, nuclear engineer Joe Weiss.

This week, a bit of an inconvenient truth in our show: We're talking about our national infrastructure--power, water, transportation, and the like--and how it's kind of a mess from a security perspective thanks in no small part to the growth of the Internet. If you're a fan of reliable electricity and clean water you'll agree with me it's an important topic, and I think you'll find our discussion fascinating.

Our guests today to dive into this are first our security reporter, Elinor Mills, from CNET. And a special welcome to Joe Weiss, founder of Applied Control Solutions, which works with government agencies and utilities on infrastructure safety. Joe also spends a fair bit of time testifying before Congress on these issues. Previously Joe was a nuclear power engineer and technical manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI. His book, Protecting Industrial Control Systems from Electronic Threats, comes out next week.

Now playing: Watch this: Our perilous infrastructure


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Show notes and talking points

What is a control system? How are they different now than before the Net?

What's the danger with the Internet?

Attacks vs. mistakes

Surely there are advantages? Cost, access, efficiency...

Joe says: Applying IT security solutions won't necessarily work in the critical-infrastructure world.

Talk about password protection etc.

Joe says: The average corporate network is more secure than any power plant or substation. How can that be?

Elinor: Do you hear about this at RSA etc.?

What is being done?

Examples Terry Childs (SF hacker) - Water treatment plant on the same SF city network

Transpo incidents

Electricity grid

Future, outlook, how to fix

Related Reading: Elinor Mills' interview with Joe Weiss, Crusader for critical infrastructure security.


Next time: The future of the software business. Is the app store model going to save software developers? How about "freemiums," trialware, or ad-supported software? Guests to be announced shortly. Monitor my Twitter feed (@Rafe) for updates.

E-mail comments to, and get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog.