updated 7/20/2006 5:22:13 PM ET 2006-07-20T21:22:13

Federal scientists who study how hackers try to break into computer-based controls for nuclear reactors and other automated industrial systems are passing the secrets on to the private operators of such facilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security will sponsor free classes in protecting remote controls of critical infrastructure during an international cybersecurity summit in Las Vegas Sept. 28-30.

Researchers from the Idaho National Laboratory will demonstrate cybersecurity attacks on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, networks that regulate electrical-supply systems and other automated industrial controls of potential terrorist targets, such as railroads, chemical plants and hydroelectric dams.

The courses were held once before, in March, at a similar conference in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by the SANS Institute, a Maryland-based computer-security organization. More than 400 information technology workers from 23 countries attended the classes, said Ethan Huffman, a spokesman for the Idaho National Laboratory’s national security programs.

“These are the people that deal with these systems every day and that’s who we want to help,” he said.

At the Idaho site, the Energy Department operates the National SCADA Test Bed, which analyzes commercially manufactured control systems for utilities to determine hacker vulnerabilities and strengthen security.

Homeland Security also uses the Idaho National Laboratory to analyze security threats to computerized controls for non-energy businesses such as telecommunications and financial services.

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