Threats to the Electric Grid

Grid Attacks in Ukraine Highlight Terrorist Threat

It doesn't take a government, and there is a thriving market of killware online.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | March 10, 2016

UPDATE:  US Department of Justice to charge 5 Iranians in hacking American dam.

The Russian-Iranian axis developing as a consequence of the nuclear deal has already seen the Iranians acquiring strategic Russian military technologies from Putin’s state, most notably advanced anti-aircraft missiles.  Iran could potentially profit as much by simply gaining access to the community of Russian-language hackers with whom Putin has developed a mutually-beneficial, plausibly-deniable relationship.  Iran has its own stable of anti-American hackers, described by defense experts as ” less restrained and more intent on causing harm to US institutions,” rather than being focused on espionage.  Among the most dangerous things jihadists could do is attack our power grid.  We have not taken the steps we need to take to defend this critical vulnerability.

The Russians have recently proven to have the capacity to take down a large electrical grid.  The grid connected Ukraine with the Crimea, and its destruction opens a path for Russian companies to provide power to Crimea instead.  The move provides profit to Russian companies, and solidifies Russia’s hold on the territory it recently seized by invasion.

The community of hackers being used are not an official state agency.  They have grown up around attacks on American systems, especially financial systems.  They have proven capable of attacking mining and transportation systems as well.  Russia has learned to use them because they provide a deniable capacity to advance its geopolitical goals.  Iran, facing an oil war with Saudi Arabia, could profit in just the same way.  It is in Russia’s interest to help them do so as a means to the end of solidifying their allied control over the Middle East.

Hackers can share their tools relatively easily with jihadists, whether Iranin-backed or stateless, as they are traded freely online.  This morning we confirmed that one of the more descrutive tools described in the article can be readily downloaded by anyone with internet access.  There exists “something akin to [an] app store” for another of these hacker tools, allowing specialized programs designed to attack specific targets to be integrated into the tool.  Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning says that recent attacks against U.S. power entities such as his are even more sophisticated than the one against Ukraine.

This freelance community of cyber raiders gains protection and freedom to operate from assisting these nation states in their geopolitical goals.  It is in the interest of these criminals to expand their network of protection by providing their services to other rogue states, or even proto-states like ISIS.  The skills and software are easily traded.  Western governments, especially America’s, must treat this as the massive national security vulnerability that it is.


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