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CIA: Cyber Attacks Turn Out the Lights

The importance of securing national resources that access cyberspace just got a shot in the arm:

On Wednesday, in New Orleans, US Central Intelligence Agency senior analyst Tom Donohue told a gathering of 300 US [and foreign] government officials, engineers and security managers from [critical infrastructure sectors] asset owners that
"We have information, from multiple regions outside the United States, of cyber intrusions into utilities, followed by extortion demands. We suspect, but cannot confirm, that some of these attackers had the benefit of inside knowledge. We have information that cyber attacks have been used to disrupt power equipment in several regions outside the United States. In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities. We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet."

Such an event would be problematic at any time, but timed to occur during high-stress periods like during heat waves or inclement weather, the impact could be devastating. Most "cyber terrorism" noted to date is little more than miscreant mischief, but a concerted effort to conduct a serious attack in this sector could actually cost lives. The volume may be minor, but the idea that services we take for granted are not under our control is one way to shake people's confidence in the government's ability to protect them.

1 Comment

When 50 million people (21 million in the NY Metro area) were effected by the great Northeast Power Outage on August 14, 2003, the immediate question was if it was terrorist related. The investigation at the time concluded that the main cause of the blackout was First Energy's (Ohio) failure to trim trees, although one of the components was a "software bug" in First energy's GE software that kept alarms from showing on their system.

I wonder now, if we went back in time, if, in fact, cyber-terrorism might have been involved.