Thursday, September 27, 2007

Scary video of cyber attack on generator

The Huffington Post is a twitter over a video purporting to show a hacker hit on the power grid.

There is no question that a well informed attacker with detailed knowledge of the systems being attacked could cause this type of destruction. Attacks that posed a serious risk of injury or even death were certainly attempted during the vandal hacker era.

The harder questions to answer is whether the attack could be mounted without using inside information and whether a successful attack was likely to further the goals of a politically motivated attacker.

The ability to gather some sensitive data from target organizations is not the same as the ability to gather the specific information required to make a successful attack. The ability to cause an incident at one power plant is not the same as the ability to mount a successful campaign. The ability to mount a successful campaign is not the same as the ability to make people care.

People cared about the fact that Bin Laden was able to murder 3,000 people on US soil in the 9/11 attacks. The fact that he also closed the US stock markets for almost a week did not register any complaints. The US power grid has from time to time failed on an extended basis, the NorthEast blackout of 2003 left 50 million US citizens without power. Inconvenient yes, but not in a way that is likely to further a minority political agenda.

Cyber-terrorism might be effective in limited situations where the political goal being campaigned for has widespread public support. One can imagine that a power outage in Burma next week might cause a real loss of face for the government as it would be interpreted as incontrovertible evidence that the dictatorship is losing control. But a similar outage in the US is not likely to have the same effect.

No comments: