Cyber-war Could Threaten Security of Critical Infrastructure
The ability of several countries to launch politically motivated cyber-attacks has increased and put critical infrastructure in the crosshairs, according to a sweeping report from McAfee.
In its fifth annual Virtual Criminology Report (PDF), McAfee noted that not only have politically motivated cyber-attacks increased, but countries such as Russia, the United States and China are developing advanced offensive capabilities. According to the report, the United States nearly put its capabilities front and center before the 2003 invasion of Iraq when U.S. military and intelligence agencies planned a cyber-attack on the Iraqi financial system. The attack was called off out of concern that it would impact other countries, the report states.
"While in this case the U.S. decided to hold back due to the high risk of collateral damage, one can imagine what the consequences for the private sector might be if hostilities were to erupt between two major powers," according to the report.
Attackers have no shortage of targets, as the critical infrastructure in many developing nations is tied to the Internet. The McAfee report notes that supervisory control data acquisition (SCADA) systems for example were designed to help companies cut the costs of running and maintaining the infrastructure of the energy industry. When companies installed these systems, they didn't seem to have anticipated attackers might also want to control SCADA systems remotely to disrupt or damage them, the report contends.
"Despite the challenge of mapping out vulnerabilities in systems, there is evidence that it can be done and that attacks on utilities can be carried out successfully," the report states. "One senior analyst for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said last year that hackers were able to attack the computer systems of utility companies outside the U.S., and in one case caused a power outage in multiple cities."
At this year's Black Hat
"Until recently the focus
on the smart grid has been about adding flexibility to the grid,"
"Now several nations around the world are actively engaged in cyber-war-like preparations and attacks," he said in a statement. "Today, the weapons are not nuclear, but virtual, and everyone must adapt to these threats."