Thursday, April 9, 2009
U.S. Electrical Grid At Risk
"The next world war," a network security friend asserted the other day, "will be over the Internet."
Well, I thought out loud, at least there won't be much bloodshed. But he pointed out that the nation's entire banking system might be taken off line. Then what?
Now comes word in a Wall Street Journal report that Russian and Chinese cyberspies have implanted programs in the systems controlling the country's electrical grid that could take it down completely.
With the exception of those off the grid, i.e. generating their own electricity independently, it's conceivable that the United States one day could go dark.
Remember the great East Coast Blackout? Now imagine it spreading from coast-to-coast. And lasting longer.
No gasoline to be pumped. No banking to be done. No open stores. No heat. No light.
The report has been independently verified by security analysts who say they have been aware of this threat for some time.
Interestingly, while these programs have been detected, they've never been used by whoever is responsible to disrupt any of the grids. Officials aren't certain whether those responsible represent the governments of China or Russia.
At present, there may be no reason for anyone to attack the grids. It's not, for example, in China's best interests to disrupt because it holds so much of the U.S. debt. But just the mere fact that someone has the capability to shut down grids is disquieting.
A bill recently introduced by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) would set Internet security standards. It would also grant the government certain powers to step in to mitigate an attack by taking control of Internet networks, a provision that has raised a red flag among critics who fear government abuse. And the Obama administration is reviewing computer network vulnerabilities now.
Much attention has been focused on illegal immigration in the United States. But the real future threat to the country may be the result of electronic, not human intrusion.
We talk about issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exurban/23909249/