U.S. investigators have found evidence to confirm what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind cyberattack on a power grid that caused a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine in December.
For years, U.S. officials have expressed worry about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid. And the U.S. investigation of the Ukrainian attack has confirmed what until now has been largely theoretical: that cyberwarfare can be used to disable the U.S. power grid. U.S. systems aren’t any more protected than those breached in Ukraine, the U.S. official said.
The attack was so severe that it knocked out internal systems intended to help the power companies restore power. Computers were destroyed, and even the call centers used to report outages were knocked out.
(Analyst Comment: Previous to this, there have been two confirmed instances where a cyberattack has caused physical damage. The first was Stuxnet, the probable U.S.-Israeli joint project that attacked Iran nuclear facilities. The second was a cyberattack against a German manufacturing plant. As we covered in the Executive Intelligence Summary, DHS is horrible at preventing cyber attacks, and based on what we know about the OPM hack, and now the DHS and FBI social engineering attack, U.S. cyber security is lacking, especially in the face of so many determined adversaries. While a wide scale attack on the power grid is unlikely right now, foreign meddling in and mapping of grid infrastructure has been well-documented. China, Russia and numerous other nations maintain the asymmetric ability to attack the U.S. power grid, if pushed.)
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Photo via Chris Hunkeler
State sponsored hacking has become part of Russian doctrine, and they have upped their defense budget in this area to reflect that. It is now a force multiplier.