KIEV, Ukraine — Experts believe that Russian hackers took down a portion of Ukraine’s power grid again earlier this month, and the same experts say similar attacks would be easier and do more damage in the United States.
“It’s very concerning that these same actors, using similar capabilities and tradecraft, are preparing and are getting access to these business networks, getting access to portions of the power grid,” Rob Lee, a former cyberwarfare officer for the U.S. military, told CBS News.
Some power companies in the U.S. have weaker security than the Ukraine, Lee said.
A distribution station that supplies one-fifth of the power to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, suddenly shut down without warning early Dec. 18, Reuters reported.
The hackers used a simple method to infiltrate the power grid: sending emails with infected attachments to employees. That allowed them to steal their logins and cut the circuit breakers at about 60 substations.
“It was illogical and chaotic,” Vasyl Pemchuk, the electric control center manager in Kiev, told CBS. “It seemed like something in a Hollywood movie.”
Lee thinks it could take days or even weeks to restart the U.S. power grid after such an attack — because the U.S. grid is so complex.
“We can’t just look at the Ukraine attack and go ‘oh we’re safe against that attack,’” Lee said. “Even if we just lose a portion, right? If we have New York City or Washington, D.C., go down for a day, two days, a week, what does life look like at that point?”
Pemchuk said workers watched their computers being taken over by hackers and could do nothing except film it all with their smart phones.
CBS reported that “Russia has figured out how to crash a power grid with a click.”
Ukrainian security officials believe their nation’s infrastructure has been under cyberattack from Russia for months. The Ukraine is currently locked in civil war with Russian-backed separatists.
On Dec. 23, 2015, hackers cut off power to half the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of the Ukraine.
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