News 4 Investigates: Cyberspies -

News 4 Investigates: Cyberspies

Whether from bored teenagers, sophisticated nation-state or petty criminals, the Pentagon says it's under assault from computer hackers. Military personnel at Scott Air Force Base are some of the frontline "cyber warriors" battling against those kinds of attacks. They're assigned to the Air Force Communications Agency which has the responsibility for protecting the power and communications systems that are vital to keeping the military up and running. But the damage done by computer hackers is expensive. Military leaders say the Pentagon's spent more than $100 million in the last six months responding to and repairing damage from cyber attacks and other computer network problems.

More expensive and potentially disruptive are the attacks on the U.S. electric grid. A Wall Street Journal article says that cyberspies from Russia, China and other countries, have penetrated the electric grid in this country and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system. No damage has been done, authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, according to senior intelligence officials. If we go to war with one of these nations, or experience a major political showdown, they could turn on these tools and shut down major portions of the grid.

I explored the potential consequences of these kinds of attacks in a previously aired story. Click here to watch that story. If hackers can shut down a few refineries in this country, gas prices might skyrocket. You can only imagine the potential chaos and danger if cyberspies found was to disrupt operations at nuclear power plants or water treatment facilities.
In 2000, a disgruntled employee rigged a computerized control system at a water treatment plant in Australia, releasing more than 200,000 gallons of sewage into parks, rivers and the grounds of a Hyatt hotel.

Under the Bush administration, Congress approved $17 billion in secret funds to protect government networks, according to the article. Last week, Senate Democrats introduced a proposal that would require all critical infrastructure companies to meet new cybersecurity standards. Russian and Chinese officials have denied any wrongdoing.

For more information:
United States Cyber Consequences Unit
SANS Institute
DoD Cyber Crime Center

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