Israeli start-up, working with GE, out to detect Stuxnet-like attacks

The Stuxnet malware known to have stealthily targeted Iranian nuclear facilities a few years ago was a wake-up call about how vulnerable critical industrial systems can be to cyberattack. Now, an Israeli start-up, with help from General Electric, is testing security technology that would detect Stuxnet-like attacks on critical infrastructure systems used for power production.

Two university professors, Amir Averbuch of Tel Aviv University, and Ronald Coifman of Yale, came up with mathematical algorithms that can be used in network security monitoring to detect stealthy malware targeting industrial systems. The company they founded last year with CEO Mark Gazit is called ThetaRay. The Tel Aviv-based start-up has developed server-based technology to be used in monitoring of power-production facilities, industrial SCADA systems and other critical infrastructure. Expected to be generally available around September, the technology could also be applied to other industries, such as financial services.

The ThetaRay security appliance, deployed on premises, works by looking at both operational data from industrial systems such as SCADA controls while simultaneously combining and comparing it against the monitored network traffic and security gear, such as firewalls, says Gazit.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: Stuxnet was attacking Iran's nuclear program a year earlier that thought | White House pushes cybersecurity framework for critical infrastructure +

The appliance combines hundreds of parameters related to how operational and network systems are performing to create a kind of "hyper-dimensional picture of normal behavior" in order to detect variances in the norm that would indicate an attack.

The ThetaRay product uses its analytics to determine if there are anomalies, like sudden drops or high bursts in monitored data that would indicate a cyberattack is under way. The gear can't block the attack but will pinpoint evidence that an attack is commencing.

Stuxnet was meticulously crafted, complex malware believed to have been developed by American and Israeli intelligence agencies to disrupt processing at an Iranian nuclear power facility suspected to be involved in developing a nuclear weapon for Iran. For a long time, Stuxnet succeeded because of its method of interfering with programmable logic controllers there and creating fake data outputs that made it seem that nothing was wrong at all.

Stuxnet, also decried as a dangerous cyberweapon that could go astray with unknown consequences, ended up putting the operators of energy-production facilities around the world on alert once it became known.

ThetaRay's goal is to be able to detect these types of cyberattacks across industrial systems and is now testing it in an unnamed power plant in New York state. ThetaRay has received an undisclosed amount of financial backing from a number of parties, including Jerusalem Venture Partners and General Electric, though ThetaRay won't say much about exactly how GE, a large provider of power-generation systems, might deploy the security-monitoring technology itself.

Once the ThetaRay security system ships for general availability in the fall, it's expected to cost a "few hundred thousand dollars," according to Gazit.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitygeneral electricanti-malwareWide Area Network

More about GEGeneral ElectricIDG

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ellen Messmer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts