China may be no more than one year away from developing a supercomputer built entirely from its own technology, a big step toward freeing itself of Western technology. This is the view of some research and industry experts in the United States, but most notably the undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), who said China is now working on petaflop-class supercomputer “using entirely indigenous components that is expected to be complete within the next 12 to 18 months.” Explaining how the 12-to-18 month estimate was made, an advisor in the undersecretary’s office told Computerworld it was a collective assessment based on data coming from China and Chinese researchers and visits to China by several people. A professor of computer science at University of Tennessee and a distinguished research staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made a similar prediction, and cited China’s work on microprocessors, which include chips based on MIPS architecture, and the Loongson or Godson processor.

On an unrelated note, a search engine that indexes servers and other Internet devices is helping hackers to find industrial control systems that are vulnerable to tampering, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT) has warned. The 1-year-old site known as Shodan makes it easy to locate Internet-facing SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, systems used to control equipment at gasoline refineries, power plants, and other industrial facilities. As white-hat hacker and Errata Security CEO explained, the search engine can also be used to identify systems with known vulnerabilities. According to the Industrial Control Systems division of US CERT, that is exactly what some people are doing to discover poorly configured SCADA gear. “The identified systems range from stand-alone workstation applications to larger wide area network (WAN) configurations connecting remote facilities to central monitoring systems,” the group wrote in an advisory (PDF) published October 28. “These systems have been found to be readily accessible from the internet and with tools, such as Shodan, the resources required to identify them has been greatly reduced.” Besides opening up industrial systems to attacks that target unpatched vulnerabilities, the data provided by Shodan makes networks more vulnerable to brute-force attacks on passwords, many of which may still use factory defaults, CERT warned.

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