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Off The Grid Where Cyber Terrorists Can’t Go, Yet

April 12, 2009

Has power grid been hacked? U.S. won’t say

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters the power grid is vulnerable to potentially disabling computer attacks, while declining to comment on reports that an intrusion had taken place.power-grid

“The vulnerability is something that the Department of Homeland Security and the energy sector have known about for years,” she said. “We acknowledge that … in this world, in an increasingly cyber world, these are increasing risks.”

Napolitano spoke after the Wall Street Journal reported that cyberspies had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system.

The Journal said the intruders have not sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure but could try during a crisis or war.

The United States for several years has accused the Chinese and Russians, among others, of using cyber-attacks to try to steal American trade secrets, military secrets and government secrets.

The Chinese have been particularly active, a former U.S. security official told Reuters.

“They are all over the place,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re getting into university systems, contractor systems, hacking government systems. There’s no reason to think that the electrical system would be immune as well.”

Just how vulnerable is the electrical grid?

Smarter is not always better–at least when it comes to utilities.

More than a decade after initial reports said critical infrastructure in the U.S. is vulnerable to cyberattack, the situation has only worsened as utilities move their control systems closer to the Internet and install smart-grid technology, according to security experts.

arc_tran_bgfollowing a Wall Street Journal report that said the nation’s electricity grid has been compromised by foreign hackers. And several experts said in interviews this week that some energy Digital Globesystems have, in fact, gotten less secure as they have modernized. The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control systems used by the energy industry used to be segregated from public networks. But they have increasingly become more dependent on Internet protocol-based systems, the experts said. At the same time, their security precautions are inefficient, they said.

“The end result is that, as part of our modernization, we’ve made ourselves more vulnerable,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

— Frank Heidt, CEO, Leviathan Security,   “Energy management systems really can’t be connected to the Internet. It’s going to be painful for some companies, but they’re going to have to change this.”

— Brian Ahern,   CEO, Industrial Defender,  “We’ve got to take a step back from the hurry-up approach with the smart grid. There needs to be a balanced approach between investing in (smart grid) deployments and building security deeply into it.”

The story is likely linked to turf battles within the federal government over which agency will oversee the cybersecurity policies, and get the funding for it, several of the security experts suggested. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security has been criticized for not doing enough on cybersecurity, while the director of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Center resigned recently, accusing the NSA of trying to wrest control.

The Obama administration in December ordered officials to do a 60-day review on the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity efforts, and that report is due to be released next week.

Meanwhile, the administration’s proposed 2010 budget includes $355 million to support the base operations of the National Cyber Security Division and the efforts of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

China’s Cyber-Warfare Militia –  Chinese hackers pose a clear and present danger

Pentagon spends over $100 million on cyberattack cleanup

CIA: Cyberattack caused multiple-city blackout
China’s Cyber-Warfare Militia –  Chinese hackers pose a clear and present danger

Pentagon spends over $100 million on cyberattack cleanup

CIA: Cyberattack caused multiple-city blackout

China’s Cyber-Warfare Militia –  Chinese hackers pose a clear and present danger

Pentagon spends over $100 million on cyberattack cleanup

CIA: Cyberattack caused multiple-city blackout

As far back as 2003 the warnings were mere warning peeps … Cyberattack Could Cause Serious Damage, Think worms are bad? Cyberterrorism would be much worse, expert warns.

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Chinese military hackers have prepared a detailed plan to disable America’s aircraft battle carrier fleet with a devastating cyber attack, according to a Pentagon report obtained by The Times.

Conficker-Infected Systems Spew Spam The Conficker botnet could send billions of messages daily, security researcher says.

Is Conflicter part of ‘cyber terrorism’?

China’s cyber army is preparing to march on America, says Pentagon

If this story doesn’t encourage your rush to Solar and Wind energy, nothing will.  Those are the lifeboats hackers can’t fill …at least for the movirus-pcbment. 

It will take a lot more creativity to hack separate energy systems.  Until the “Green Grid” is connected, hacker/terrorists can’t reach us.

Some Americans are still naive to the possibility that their tv, stove, air conditioner, refrigerator, computer, water pumps and cell phone will stop.  Oh, the inconvenience of it all. Then again, what about airlines, hospitals, police, fire stations, and your own job, what would happen to all those?  Pray you’re not in an elevator, aircraft or train when the lights go out.

Warnings have been around for years.  Examples of the cyber attack consequences have been flashes in the pan for the past couple of years.  Its not just computer viruses and worms … well, maybe some of it actually is. Fleas can lay eggs in your carpet and hatch long after you’ve exterminated their parents, cyber attacks lay codes in your computer system, then when the time is right BOOM they all hatch and create havoc. Blackout!

Headlines quit screaming when the power resumes, complaints fade, memories fade, and life goes on.  Those responsible for protecting the United States from power grid breaches have had to operate on the side of more politically expedient projects. Maybe the current administration will assign more urgent attention to these new threats. Maybe, through diplomacy, negotiation or threat, America can reduce the high tech incusions that play with its welfare.  Then again, plan B should focus on a more diverse way to keep the electrical power distribution regionalized so one failure won’t immobilize the country.. green transportation is part of the solution!   Going Green may be a viable alternative to the vulnerability America faces.  If a substantial number of Americans have the ability to remain operational during outages, cyber terrorists will have a hard time getting their way.  America has many enemies created by previous administrations, their agendas are many.  Revenge for America’s cavalier treatment of their countries, families or religions many be a sample of their reasons.  Whatever the motive, the threat is real.  Why are we dragging our feet?  Why is energy autonomy still hard to come by for the average American?  Where is my electric car?.

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2 Comments
  1. April 12, 2009 6:42 pm

    Agreed T1, personally, I want my roof covered with solar panels, a personal wind machine in the back yard. I can’t afford that, nor can the majority of the population. I am sad that all this solar and wind power technology is being GIVEN AWAY to poor rural countries by huge companies. The most available and affordable access is overseas.
    Sorry for the rant. Being independent from common grid technology appears to be one solution to common breakdown. But, somewhere those independent networks will have to communicate. That’s where I see vulnerability. Every network handshake will exchange germs or virus, but limiting those handshakes will be smarter than what we have today. There are skilled engineers who participate in creating our networks, then return to their countries where they sell it to the highest, or scariest, bidder.
    I still want my electric car.
    America keeps promising a usable electric car next year, then, next year … then they price it out of our pockets. America is busy developing this and that according to corporate dictates. But, GM had a viable Electric Car, then let it go when bullied by petro gangsters. Petro Gangsters will be the first to admit that family automobile gasoline is not their real money maker. It is industry. However, the threat that the same electric technology could compete against their industrial monopoly has to be eliminated ASAP.
    So, I may be waiting for a long time to own an electric car that I can afford.

  2. April 12, 2009 5:46 pm

    Allowing command control to critical infrastructure over the Internet is more naive than using POP email without virus protection. Encrypted private networks with NO public access should be used for the control systems. Separate Internet access can be used for customer service and user accounts. That would limit intrusion damage to the point where hostile governments would have no interest.

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