My brother and I were having a conversation recently that I wanted to share parts of with you today. We both work in computer related industries, industrial and government. We got to thinking about what a group of dedicated hackers could achieve given a bit of luck and the right motivation.
You have to understand how deeply computers and internet have become embedded in most of the infrastructure we rely on. Did you hear about the Stuxnet computer worm?
Stuxnet is a computer worm discovered in June 2010 that is believed to have been created by the United States and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Stuxnet initially spreads via Microsoft Windows, and targets Siemens industrial software and equipment. While it is not the first time that hackers have targeted industrial systems, it is the first discovered malware that spies on and subverts industrial systems, and the first to include a programmable logic controller (PLC) rootkit.
The worm initially spreads indiscriminately, but includes a highly specialized malware payload that is designed to target only Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that are configured to control and monitor specific industrial processes. –wiki
Let me help break this down. This worm only attacked nuclear facilities. But that PLC that it used, and the SCADA system it attacked, that is the exact kind of computing equipment that every factory and processing facility in this country uses.
Little fertilizer facilities are often automated. Can you imagine every fertilizer plant surrounding the Dallas metro going up in flames at the same time? That would be hard to orchestrate, but even if a group managed to get a few in key locations, there would be large amounts of damage and hurt.
Waste water treatment plants are automated, run largely with computers. Untreated sewage releases along key drinking water rivers would be horrible.
Oil refineries and ethanol distillers are all run with automation. What would a busy harbor look like after an oil refinery explosion?
Power grids going down during extreme weather events, hot or cold, could cause a lot of pain for not much work.
It was quite the conversation, and we managed to scare ourselves. What about you, do you ever worry about the poorly secured electrical grid and industrial landscape?
– Calamity Jane