The American grid security story grows increasingly grim. Last week, security consulting firm Symantec warned that recent cyberattacks gave hackers direct access to the nation’s power grid on multiple occasions, according to a new report by Wired.
This time, not only the United States was exposed, said Symantec. Europe also experienced similar vulnerabilities, proving the hackers could have induced blackouts on both sides of the Atlantic. Thankfully, this apocalyptic scenario didn’t happen.
In spring and summer 2017, the Dragonfly 2.0 hacker group—a primary culprit featured in cybersecurity reports from many experts lately—launched campaigns against energy companies. They succeeded 20 times, hacking their way into full access to their target companies’ corporate servers and operations controls. This meant they could turn off circuit breakers that control the direct flow of electricity to homes and businesses.
“There’s a difference between being a step away from conducting sabotage and actually being in a position to conduct sabotage… being able to flip the switch on power generation,” Eric Chien, a Symantec security analyst, told Wired. “We’re now talking about on-the-ground technical evidence this could happen in the U.S., and there’s nothing left standing in the way except the motivation of some actor out in the world.” Related: Venezuela Just 24 Hours Away From Formal Declaration Of Default
The Ukrainian grid power blackouts of 2015 and 2016 are generally considered the firstinstances of cyberattacks wreaking havoc on a nation’s power supplies. Analysts believe that the perpetrator of the first attack on Ukraine’s power back in December 2015 was the Sandworm team, a group of hackers who previously targeted Europe and the United States. An updated version of their most lethal software, Blackenergy 3, was at the root of Ukraine’s initial power crisis.
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