How Russian Hackers Brought Down a Major European Power Grid

How Russian Hackers Brought Down a Major European Power Grid

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Kiev lost its power on December 23rd 2015 and thousands were thrown in darkness.  Worse thing was that when they tried to call their Utlity companies, they couldn’t even get through.

This is what happened –

  1. Hackers used malware to directed utilities’ industrial control computers to disconnect the substations by introducing a malware.
  2.  Then they brought the computers down by introducing a wiper virus.
  3. In the end they jammed the phone lines of the power companies to keep the customers from alerting anyone.

Hackers had brought down 30 of the 135 power sub-stations for six hours.

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What if this hacking was done to a US grid or some European country?

Hacking a power grid: It sounds like the kind of doomsday scenario experts in the U.S. and Europe have warned about for years. “Imagine if someone shut down the power to New York’s traffic grid during rush hour,” says Tony Lawrence, chief executive officer of cybersecurity firm VOR Technology. “Cyber attacks against public utilities systems could have disastrous effects.” But the cybersecurity researchers investigating the power failure now say it’s clear this wasn’t the kind of sophisticated attack that could fell the U.S. in 15 minutes, as former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke famously predicted.

“We always thought there would be this Pearl Harbor event. One day, someone would get mad enough, and they’d unleash the hounds of hell,” says Jason Larsen, a consultant with cybersecurity firm IOActive who specializes in industrial control systems. “That’s not really what we’ve seen.”

It will surely be much harder to bring down the systems in say, US – more specifically a high power target like New York City, Manhattan in particular.  But once it is done by hackers, it will be far more difficult to bring the power back.  What took days to bring the grid back online in Ukraine could take weeks in the US.  Of course, to bring down a US grid would not be as easy as the one in Ukraine was.

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