CIA: Hackers to Blame for Power Outages

Sounds like the most recent Die Hard movie. From AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hackers literally turned out the lights in multiple cities after breaking into electrical utilities and demanding extortion payments before disrupting the power, a senior CIA analyst told utility engineers at a trade conference.

All the break-ins occurred outside the United States, said senior CIA analyst Tom Donahue. The U.S. government believes some of the hackers had inside knowledge to cause the outages. Donahue did not specify what countries were affected, when the outages occurred or how long the outages lasted. He said they happened in “several regions outside the United States.”

“In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities,” Donahue said in a statement. “We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet.”

A CIA spokesman Friday declined to provide additional details.

“The information that could be shared in a public setting was shared,” said spokesman George Little. “These comments were simply designed to highlight to the audience the challenges posed by potential cyber intrusions.”

Donahue spoke earlier this week at the Process Control Security Summit in New Orleans, a gathering of engineers and security managers for energy and water utilities.

The Bush administration is increasingly worried about the little-understood risks from hackers to the specialized electronic equipment that operates power, water and chemical plants.

In a test last year, the Homeland Security Department produced a video showing commands quietly triggered by simulated hackers having such a violent reaction that an enormous generator shudders as it flies apart and belches black-and-white smoke.

The Bruce Willis movie is fantasy. However the reality is, our electric grids and the internet could be the target of hackers employed by terrorists. Attacks on the internet were seen in 2002 and as recently as February 2007. The later attack gaining little mention in the press at the time, the MSM and American public too fixated on the trivial goings on after a woman died in South Florida.(The 2002 attack had the misfortune of occuring at the same time as the DC sniper attacks)

The damage a lengthy outage can do can’t be understated. The 2003 Northeast blackout, probably caused by some untrimmed trees in Ohio, is supposed to caused 6 to 10 billion dollars in damage. Not to mention the 8 lives that were lost. Just imagine what happens if the power grid goes down for a week or more for an area of the US as large or larger than the 2003 blackout, or the 1965 blackout. I have no solutions to propose, just pray that there are people working to prevent this from happening.

The Knucklehead of the Day award