The US is at an ever growing risk of a cyber attacks, with energy infrastructure likely to be hackers’ prime target. This was the stark warning made by General Keith Alexander, the retired general and former chief of the National Security Agency, earlier this year.
Now, the Pentagon says it has a plan to do something about the threat. Its research division, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (Darpa), has launched a new program to target security threats that have the potential to wipe out all of America’s power systems.
Darpa has launched a new program to target security threats to critical infrastructures in the US. It wants to focus on infrastructure that is vital to the Department of Defense’s missions.
Dubbed Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization (RADICS), its goal is to develop automated systems to deal with a loss of power. They say these systems should help utilities engineers restore power within seven days of an attack.
‘If a well-coordinated cyber attack on the nation’s power grid were to occur today, the time it would take to restore power would pose daunting national security challenges,’ said John Everett, Darpa program manager. ‘Beyond the severe domestic impacts, including economic and human costs, prolonged disruption of the grid would hamper military mobilization and logistics, impairing the government’s ability to project force or pursue solutions to international crises.’
The US is at an ever growing risk of a cyber attacks, with energy infrastructure likely to be hacker’s prime target. This was the stark warning made by General Keith Alexander, the retired four-star general and former chief of the National Security Agency, earlier this year.
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NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ARE NOT PREPARED FOR A CYBER ATTACK
Nuclear power plants throughout the world are in denial over the risk of a serious cyber attack, a report has warned. The study claims that the civil nuclear infrastructure in most countries is unprepared for such attacks.
The consequences could be devastating, as even a small-scale attack, it found, could release deadly radiation into the local area.
The report claims that cyber criminals could trigger an incident similar to that seen at Fukushima Daichi in Japan in 2011. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives in the natural disaster and subsequent devastation.
Published by think tank Chatham House, it looked at cyber security in power plants over a period of 18-months and cites 50 incidents globally, of which only a handful have been made public.
The report found a worrying lack of security protocols at nuclear plants throughout the world. For instance, standard factory-set passwords, such as ‘1234’, were found to be on a range of computer systems that control a power plant’s critical system.
An early warning capability for power suppliers could prevent an attack entirely or blunt its effects, such as damage to equipment. One of the aims of RADICS is to develop detection systems with high sensitivity and low false positive rates, by studying power grid dynamics.
RADICS also calls for the design of a secure emergency network that could connect power suppliers in the moments after an attack. ‘Isolating affected utilities from the internet would enable recovery efforts to proceed without adversary surveillance and interference,’ Everett said. ‘Providing an alternative means for online coordination would enable a more orderly restoration of power among affected organisations.’
Finally, the RADICS will research systems that can localise and characterise malicious software. ‘The greatest risk is a catastrophic attack on the energy infrastructure. We are not prepared for that,’ General Keith Alexander said earlier this year.
He envisioned a worst case-scenario where hackers targeted oil refineries, power stations, and the electric grid.
The payments nexus of the major banks could also be paralysed he warned. ‘We need something like an integrated air-defence system for the whole energy sector,’ he said.
The current NSA chief Michael Rogers testified late last year that China is capable of cyber attacks that could cause ‘catastrophic failures’ of the water system or the electricity grid.