China has laced the U.S. power grid and other critical infrastructure systems with hidden malware that could be activated to devastating effect, according to a report yesterday in the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s not only going to be damaging to our economy, but people are going to die,” Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), the point man for cyber-security in the House Intelligence Committee, told the Times.
U.S. officials admit that the industrial control systems that run America’s electrical grids, pipelines, chemical plants and other infrastructure are vulnerable. Cyber attacks could blow up city blocks, erase bank data, crash planes and cut power to large sections of the country.
CIA Director Leon E. Panetta already has warned Congress that he worries about a “Cyber Pearl Harbor,” an event similar to the one depicted in the novel “The War Cloud” by New York Time bestselling author Thomas Greanias.
The Pentagon got its first wake-up call in 2008, when the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, discovered its classified networks had been penetrated by a foreign intelligence service——China or Russia——using malware spread through portable USB flash drives.
The attack led to the creation the following year of U.S. Cyber Command. Staffed by 1,000 spies and hackers, the agency is charged with both protecting domestic systems and also mounting offensive cyber operations.
U.S. officials are mum about the nature of Cyber Command’s “offensive” operations. But last year the Stuxnet computer worm damaged Iran’s uranium centrifuges by causing them to spin at irregular speeds, putting a temporary halt to that nation’s nuclear bomb ambitions. The Stuxnet computer worm is widely believed to have been created by the U.S. or Israel.
All Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, will say is, “I believe that we would suffer tremendously if a cyber war were conducted today——as would our adversaries.”
See it for yourself in THE WAR CLOUD.