It has been reported that for the first time in history (that we know of) that a cyberattack has caused a power outage. Hackers have been linked to the major blackout that occurred in Ukraine during the holiday season.
An estimated 700,000 homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of the country lost power for several hours on December 23rd. Although it’s difficult to determine the real culprits of the outage, this breach has been linked by the researchers at iSIGHT Partner, a ThreatScape Cyber Espionage group, to a specific kind of malware called BlackEnergy.
This type of malware wipes files off computer systems, shuts them down and can lead to a blackout. According to John Hultquist, the head of ISIGHT Partner, at least one of the power systems in Ukraine was infected with this malware.
Hultquist has reason to believe that the attacks were by a group iSIGHT calls “Sandworm.” iSIGHT has witnessed the group using BlackEnergy before. “Sandworm” was linked to targeting NATO in 2014, along with government organizations in Ukraine, Poland and others in Western Europe.
“Sandworm” has been associated with the Russian government. Ukrainian officials are pointing the blame for the cyberattack at Russia and Ukraine has launched a full investigation into the outage. Even if this is not of Russia’s doing, the relations between these two countries is at an all-time low. This has only added fuel to the fire.
This discovery by iSIGHT and other security firms has global implications. “It’s always been the scenario we’ve been worried about for years because it has ramifications across broad sectors,” said Hultquist. “Operators who have previously targeted American and European sensitive systems look to have actually carried out a successful attack that turned the lights out.”
This could have been just a test to see if the hackers could be successful. Although this has happened thousands of miles away from the United States, this doesn’t mean that all government security teams should be concerned and equipped for the next cyberattack. This just proves not all wars are fought with guns. In today’s world, there is now the treat of digital warfare.