U.S. Power Grid Being Hit With ‘Increasing’ Hacking Attacks, Government Warns

One can only imagine how much more the threat is multiplied because of the “patch and pray” culture America was warned about as early as 1998. Nobody in the industry cares until after the problem happens, then they stick a band-aid on it.

 

Potential to ‘take down’ U.S. power grids, water systems and other critical infrastructure

While experts have long signaled that the U.S. power grid and related systems are vulnerable to physical attacks by terrorists and other individuals, the U.S. government is now warning that sensitive computer systems that maintain the grid are increasingly being attacked, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that was not made public until the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) disclosed it this month.

These types of computer viruses are able to comb internal systems for private information in a clandestine manner; they can also be used to wrest control of certain computers away from their owners.

“In recent years, new threats have materialized as new vulnerabilities have come to light, and a number of major concerns have emerged about the resilience and security of the nation’s electric power system,” the report says. “In particular, the cyber security of the electricity grid has been a focus of recent efforts to protect the integrity of the electric power system.”

“Incidents of reported cyber intrusions and attacks aimed at undermining the U.S. grid appear to be increasing,” according to the report. “While parts of the electric power subsector have mandatory and enforceable cyber and physical security standards, some have argued that minimum, consensus-based standards are not enough to secure the system.”

“The increasing frequency of cyber intrusions on industrial control systems of critical infrastructure is a trend of concern to the electric utility industry,” the report warns “The National Security Agency reported that it has seen intrusions into [industrial control] systems by entities with the apparent technical capability ‘to take down control systems that operate U.S. power grids, water systems and other critical infrastructure.’”

The report documents a number of recent attacks on U.S. power grid computer systems.

In October 2014, for instance, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) revealed that “several industrial control systems has been infected” by a virus capable of gathering information about how the grid system functions.

“Hackers are reported to have used the BlackEnergy Trojan horse to deliver plug-in modules used for several purposes, including keylogging, audio recording, and grabbing screenshots,” according to the report. “Researchers looking at the BlackEnergy malware are reported to have identified a plug-in that can destroy hard disks, and believe that the attackers will activate the module once they are discovered in order to hide their presence.”

Another virus named HAVEX has been used to open so-called “back doors” into computer systems.

“The cyberattack leaves the company’s system in what appears to be a normal operating condition, but the attacker now has a backdoor to access and possibly control the company’s” control systems.

Full article: U.S. Power Grid Being Hit With ‘Increasing’ Hacking Attacks, Government Warns (Washington Free Beacon)

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