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Cyber Attackers Have Gained Control of the Power Grid

Cyber Attackers Have Gained Control of the Power Grid

In today’s digital age, military attacks aren’t the only one we need to worry about. It’s important to be on the defensive when it comes to cyber warfare.

Symantec revealed that recent penetrations of the energy grid were deep enough that the hackers actually had control of the grid and could turn off power at will. In fact, a particular attack strategy gained control of more than 20 power grid networks with access to commands that could shut down circuit breakers and plunge areas of America into darkness. The potential for sabotage, terrorism and blackmail is real and current.

With that in mind, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton has said that cyber security will be a high priority of committee’s regulators and that they need to make an effort to educate retail investors about cybercrime.  

“I am not comfortable that the American investing public understands the substantial risks that we face systemically from cyber issues,” said Clayton while on a panel at New York University. “I’d like to see better disclosure around that.”

Hackers aren’t only stealing financial information to make a quick buck, the SEC is seeing an increase of information being stolen in an effort to gain a market advantage.  

“Other areas of focus include ensuring financial firms take the appropriate steps to safeguard sensitive information; cyber-related disclosure failures; and the growing prevalence of “initial coin offerings (ICOs),” Avakian said,” writes Reuters. “An ICO is where a digital currency based on blockchain technology is sold publicly and the currency is often traded on secondary exchanges.” 

With the influx of digital currencies, this industry is evidently will be more more regulated because these tokens can be considered “securities,” which fall under federal laws in place to protect investors.  

Some companies are pretending to be legitimate in the digital currency, but are actually just stealing people’s money. 

“As with any kind of newsworthy event, roaches kind of crawl out of the woodwork and try to scam money off of investors,” said Clayton, the leader of the commission made up of about 90 people.

Energy companies have also been the victims of cyberattacks as of late. The security firm Symantec said that hackers now could potentially gain access to power grid systems– resulting in massive blackouts.  

“In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ networks. And at a handful of US power firms and at least one company in Turkey—none of which Symantec will name—their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces power company engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into US homes and businesses,” writes Wired.  

Apparently, hacking strategies are so advanced that it is possible that American power systems can be compromised, undeniably causing chaos.  

“There’s a difference between being a step away from conducting sabotage and actually being in a position to conduct sabotage … being able to flip the switch on power generation,” said Eric Chien, a Symantec security analyst to Wired. “We’re now talking about on-the-ground technical evidence this could happen in the US, and there’s nothing left standing in the way except the motivation of some actor out in the world.

Author’s note: This is a substantial threat in America. Hacking power systems could lead to vast economic damage and would have detrimental effects at hospitals and emergency services. Cyber warfare defenses need to be a top priority to make sure hackers can’t steal market secrets or even more importantly, halt them from gaining access to U.S. power grids.  


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