The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have begun issuing warnings to America’s power grid operators and other utilities about the serious threat of cyberattacks in the wake of a successful attack on the Ukrainian power grid last year.
That cyberattack in December cut off power to about 225,000 people in the Ukraine, marking “the first known physical impacts to critical infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack,” the report from the FBI and DHS reads.
The landmark report for utilities includes 12 briefings and online webinars, The Washington Free Beacon reported, as well as sessions in eight US cities. It is titled: “Ukraine Cyber Attack: Implications for U.S. Stakeholders.”
“The attacks leveraged commonly available tools and tactics against the control systems which could be used against infrastructure in every sector,” the report reads.
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The purpose of the briefings is to familiarize officials within the utility sector with what happened in the Ukraine, and what could be done here to try and prevent a duplicate attack. News reports indicate that Russian hackers used the so-called Black Energy cyber weapon to shut down a portion of that nation’s grid.
Cybersecurity experts from the FBI, DHS, the Department of Energy and other agencies travelled to the Ukraine to study what happened there and prepare for a future attack here, a DHS press release states.
The release did not say whether DHS thinks Black Energy could be a threat to the US power grid.
Earlier this year, NSA chief Michael Rogers told a cyber security conference that it’s a “matter of when, not if,” the American power grid suffers a cyberattack.
The Department of Homeland Security in recent months has tried downplaying the threat of a cyberattack, but Rogers has not. He even has warned of the fallout of such an attack on the financial sector.
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“What are going to do as a society when you go to your bank account, and the numbers don’t match what you think they should be?” Rogers asked. “What do you do if your business does financial transactions, and they don’t reflect what you are seeing?”
The Free Beacon report came just days after a New York Times article reported that the DHS cybersecurity efforts were understaffed and unprepared for an attack on the grid. The article quoted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as saying the agency was having a hard time recruiting the security experts it needed.
“We are competing in a tough marketplace against a private sector that is in a position to offer a lot more money,” Johnson told the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. “We need more cyber talent without a doubt in D.H.S., in the federal government, and we are not where we should be right now, that is without a doubt.”
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