This afternoon the Federal Electronics Commission announced a $1.2 million fine was levied against Robotron, the German electronic control system manufacturer, for the exfiltration and sale of manufacturing data from hundreds of US companies. David Weeb, the FEC spokesman, reported that this is the first fine the Commission has levied for industrial data exfiltration.
The FEC notice explained that the Robotron had used its MotorSteuerung software to collect data from electric motors in thousands of facilities around the world. While the data collection was originally designed to provide preventive maintenance information to customers, Robotron has admitted that they have been selling the data to electric motor manufacturers around the world.
Robotron President Erich Mielke said in a prepared statement that Robotron had initially started using the data for marketing their variable speed motors. When the Electric Motors Division was sold off as part of a restructuring move three years ago, Robotron decided to start selling the data to other electric motor manufacturers.
Mielke explained that the detail performance data helped to provide important sales leads and data to enable motor sales people to make the case for switching to more expensive variable speed motors.
This practice came to the FEC’s notice recently when a terrorism investigation by the Federal Bureau of Inquiry discovered that sophisticated knowledge of the operation of a motor in an HVAC system allowed hackers from the Stasi Ehemalige hacking collective to start the recent fire in a synagogue near Houston, TX.
Johnathan Quest, an FBI spokesman, told reporters that Robotron was probably not the direct source of the information used by the Stasi group. He said that the FBI believes that an insider at an unnamed electric motor manufacturer with close ties to Stasi Ehemalige provided the Robotron information to the group. The FBI hopes to make arrests soon in that case where two people were killed and hundreds injured in the synagogue fire.