GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE: Foreign Cyberspies Have Hacked And Boobie Trapped The U.S. Electrical Grid

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WALL STREET JOURNAL: Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials. The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.”Many of the intrusions were detected not by the companies in charge of the infrastructure but by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said. Intelligence officials worry about cyber attackers taking control matrix_pie__anonib.gifof electrical facilities, a nuclear power plant or financial networks via the Internet.

Authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, the senior intelligence official said. He added, “If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on.” The U.S. electrical grid comprises three separate electric networks, covering the East, the West and Texas. Each includes many thousands of miles of transmission lines, power plants and substations. The flow of power is controlled by local utilities or regional transmission organizations. The growing reliance of utilities on Internet-based communication has increased the vulnerability of control systems to spies and hackers, according to government reports. MORE

PHAWKER: This is quite disturbing, we have grown quite fond of electricity.

propaganda_homelandsecurity_2.jpgUPDATE: The real authors of this tale are unnamed “U.S. intelligence officials,” perhaps the same ones who claimed last year that the Chinese government may have caused the 2003 blackout that cut off electricity to 50 million people in eight states and a Canadian province. Sadly, this new installment doesn’t contain the kind of juicy details that made the previous one so easy to debunk. In fact, it contains almost no details at all. The attacks are “pervasive,” and yet not a single utility company is named as a victim. Even better, the blackout-triggering malware hasn’t been spotted by the companies — which explains perfectly why this is the first we’ve heard of it.  Only America’s intelligence community has seen the code. They could show us, but then they’d have to kill us. The unspoken lesson here is obvious: Chinese Superhackers Are Our Superiors. No, wait. That’s not it. I know … Only the intelligence agencies are equipped to protect us from foreign cyber attacks. It’s an unusually opportune time for this revelation, since the NSA is at this very moment jockeying to take over cyber security from DHS, which lacks the wholesale warrantless-wiretapping capabilities needed to detect Chinese hackers. What a lucky coincidence of timing that this exciting, if uncheckable, story should emerge now. MORE

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