Hackers infiltrate Large Hadron Collider systems and mock IT security

Hackers have mounted an attack on the Large Hadron Collider, raising concerns about the security of the biggest experiment in the world.As the first particles were circulating in the machine near Geneva where the world wide web was born, a Greek group hacked into the facility, posting a warning about weaknesses in its infrastructure.

Calling themselves the Greek Security Team, the interlopers mocked the IT used on the project, describing the technicians responsible for security as "a bunch of schoolkids."

However, despite an ominous warning "don't mess with us," the hackers said they had no intention of disrupting the work of the atom smasher.

"We're pulling your pants down because we don't want to see you running around naked looking to hide yourselves when the panic comes," they wrote in Greek in a rambling note posted on the LHC's network.

The scientists behind the Ł4.4 billion "Big Bang" machine had already received threatening emails and been besieged by telephone calls from worried members of the public concerned by speculation that the machine could trigger a black hole to swallow the earth, or earthquakes and tsunamis, despite endless reassurances to the contrary from the likes of Prof Stephen Hawking.

The website - www.cmsmon.cern.ch - can no longer be accessed by the public as a result of the attack.

Scientists working at Cern, the organisation that runs the vast smasher, were worried about what the hackers could do because they were "one step away" from the computer control system of one of the huge detectors of the machine, a vast magnet that weighs 12500 tons, measuring around 21 metres in length and 15 metres wide/high.

If they had hacked into a second computer network, they could have turned off parts of the vast detector and, said the insider, "it is hard enough to make these things work if no one is messing with it."

Fortunately, only one file was damaged but one of the scientists firing off emails as the CMS team fought off the hackers said it was a "scary experience".

The hackers targeted the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment, or CMS, one of the four "eyes" of the facility that will be analysing the fallout of the Big Bang.

The CMS team of around 2000 scientists is racing with another team that runs the Atlas detector, also at Cern, to find the Higgs particle, one that is responsible for mass.

"There seems to be no harm done. From what they can tell, it was someone making the point that CMS was hackable," said James Gillies, spokesman for Cern. "It was quickly detected."

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