Family Security Matters
Today, Afghani and Israeli infrastructure were targeted by outside forces. In Afghanistan, the Taliban blew up a major electricity pylon in Dand-e-Shahabuddin area knocking out power to the entire region. In Israel, the Public Utility Authority was the target of one of the country’s largest cyber attacks in history.
Afghanistan and Israel will be able to recover from the recent attacks, but these events illustrate how susceptible a nation’s infrastructure can be. The Taliban were able to easily knock out power to an entire region without any high tech equipment, while the entire nation of Israel would have been effected if the attack was not stopped.
This is not the first, and certainly not the last, time an outside force has attacked a nation’s grid.
- March 31, 2015, 44 of Turkey’s 81 provinces lost power for twelve hours after their grid was alledgedly hacked by Iran.
- January 2015, cities and towns across Pakistan lost power after Baluchistani rebels attacked a transmission line.
- June 9, 2014, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attacked a transmission tower that blacked out the entire nation of Yemen.
- In December 2015, Russia was suspected of hacking Ukrainian power stations, causing tens of thousands of Ukrainians to lose power.
- 2013, the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reported on several occasions when Iranians infiltrated the U.S. power grid and, on one occasion, a dam in New York.
- 2010, a North Korean defector spoke with BBC Click about North Korean hackers began using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to target control systems of critical infrastructure.
Whether high tech or low tech, attacks on the grid can be carried out by anyone or any group. In the case of Yemen, AQAP simply fired grenades at a Yemeni transmission tower and blacked out the whole nation. With powerful nations relying heavily on electricity, it is imperative for nations to secure their grids and protect against a possible incursion.
As a well developed nation it is not enough to just prepare against high tech incursions. Securing servers and putting up firewalls will not stop an explosive or gunfire from ruining a system. The United States must prepare for a full spectrum of attacks from its enemies.
John Riggi, a section chief at the FBI’s cyber division, mentioned in a CNN article that IS had been attempting to hack into the U.S. grid, but have been unsuccessful. However, he later mentions that it is possible to gain the technology necessary from the black market. Some companies have been cited selling hacking equipment to oppressive governments.
Hackers have offered hacking training on internet forums for a small fee. The tools to hack into control systems on power plants and dams are easily accessible on the internet. Powerful nations and average people now have access to the knowledge to do critical damage to a nation’s vital infrastructure.
With all of these threats it is important for the U.S. to know who their enemies are. As the CNN article mentioned, while IS has been unsuccessful, they still have the potential and desire to hack our grid. U.S. Defense leaders are well aware of the threats We currently do not have a strategy to deter actors like China and Russia from proliferating hacking capabilities to other hostile actors.