Friday, September 12, 2008

LHC Not So Safe

The Greek Security Team, computer hackers who know Greek at least, left this souvenir behind on the CMS experiment's computer system. The attacks went on for two days, September 9 and 10, part way into First Beam commissioning. "We are 2600 --dont mess with us" was their sign-off.

One of the CMS team fighting off the hackers said it was a "scary experience". Dr James Gillies, chief spokesperson for CERN said "It was quickly detected." A half dozen files were uploaded by the hackers. One CMS computer file was damaged. It could have been worse. An CERN insider commented that if the attackers had penetrated into a second computer system, some of the CMS could have been turned off, adding, "it is hard enough to make these things work if no one is messing with it." The CMS is a gigantic solenoid magnet that could slow down traffic in Paris, though here it will be used to detect muons with its millions of pixels and sensors, or whatever else registers during proton beam collisions of extraordinary power.

CERN of late is under siege as the LHC moves closer to full 5 TeV beams before October 21st. Emails and telephone calls are flooding in from panicked people fearing the worst, from black holes to tsunamis caused by collider operations. If tsunamis are typical of the irrational sort of fears, CERN has admitted micro black holes are a possibility, but won't be dangerous.

The current blitz against CERN is mostly by professional spammers. Yesterday CERN got 1.4 million emails, about 98% spam.

As usual CERN is not worried. "There seems to be no harm done." said Gillies.

News source: The Telegraph, UK, "Hackers attack Large Hadron Collider" by Roger Highfield, September 12, 2008.

--Alan Gillis

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