According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, cyberspies from China, Russia and other countries have penetrated into the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software that could disrupt the system. According to officials, the spies have not actually damaged the grid or any other key infrastructure, but appear to have been attempting to navigate the electrical system. More importantly, the intruders could attempt to damage the system during a war or other national security crisis.
Evidently, there have been a growing number of intrusions over the past year, most of which were detected by intelligence agencies and not the companies actually in charge of the infrastructure. According to officials, the software left behind "could be used to destroy infrastructure components," and "water, sewage and other infrastructure systems were at risk." These same officials cautioned, however, that "the motivation of the cyberspies wasn’t well understood, and they don’t see an immediate danger."
The Journal also notes that "protecting the electrical grid and other infrastructure is a key part of the Obama’s administration cybersecurity review, which is to be completed next week" (Aaron Wright’s post on this blog regarding the review can be found here). One also wonders if news of this breach will increase momentum for a cybersecurity bill recently introduced in the Senate (see my post here). That bill would give the President power to limit or shut down Internet traffic to and from any federal government or United States infrastructure network (which would presumably include the electricity grid) and would also require that infrastructure companies meet new security standards.
- Wall Street Journal Article: "Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated by Spies"