by Aramie Louisville Vas
ISIL is reportedly targeting U.S. electrical systems – attempted attacks were confirmed as of Wednesday, and the attempts were announced at a meeting of U.S. energy firms to discuss issues of national security. Incidentally, the news comes at the same time as the U.S. charged Ardit Ferizi (remember him – he was stealing personal data of U.S. officials and providing it to ISIL?) with a first-ever charge of cyberterrorism.
“ISIL is beginning to perpetrate cyberattacks,” Caitlin Durkovich, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security.
Not to worry, though. At least, not yet. Apparently, ISIL does not have technology sophisticated enough to carry out their destructive plans and plunge the U.S. into more chaos and literal darkness.
“Strong intent. Thankfully, low capability,” said John Riggi of the FBI’s cyber division. “But the concern is that they’ll buy that capability.”
Buy that capability? Can they do that? For sure. Hacking software is a black market commodity, most often used by the likes of mafia type operations for massive database hacks. If ISIL managed to get the kind of software that they need, it could disrupt energy flow to U.S. homes, businesses, you name it. It would be bad. We rely on the grid.
What’s interesting is that the grid, while vulnerable, is kind of a jumbled mess. You know how there can be a storm that takes out your neighbors, the other side of the street and a few streets over, but leaves your house somehow untouched? That’s the weird power grid, cobbled together in a sense, though professionally cobbled, if such a thing exists. This all means that any person or group, be it ISIL or domestic terrorists or other countries, would have a hard time blacking out significant portions of the grid. It’s just not as smoothly connected as it would need to be for a hack-and-darken scenario. Different types of machines, different software – you get the picture.
The energy companies say that hacking the U.S. electrical system would require a team of highly skilled, expensive, technical spies. They’d have to understand the machines and computers within the grid, then get the best hackers to pry into the system. And still, because of the illogical layout of the power grid, they may or may not get much accomplished.
U.S. officials stated that a far greater threat exists from external terrorists from more heavily skilled countries. Malware was found last year on the industrial control systems of energy companies and traced back to the Russian government. Still, the FBI classifies ISIL’s intent and attempts as significant threats because of what they could obtain on the black market. Cyberattacks are up there right behind terrorist attacks in terms of threats to the U.S.
On a good and interesting note, there exists powerful new technology which streamlines those massive power plant structures no one wants to live by into small boxes: fuel cells. They are being developed for implementation by the likes of people who work for NASA. Word is that they could potentially be used for powering situations on Mars! Humans will be humans wherever we go, so it’s probably best to make ourselves as attack-proof as possible, no matter which planet we inhabit.