While the warning about the potential for cyberattacks against America may sound like a broken record, security officials are saying it’s time people sat up and paid attention. Security experts are admitting how easily cyber terrorists could decimate infrastructure in the United States.
Despite continued encouragement and even an executive order from the federal government for companies to upgrade their existing security systems, many of America’s key infrastructure controls are still easily accessible. Because of how reliant companies are on the Internet, it doesn’t take much to find one of these systems. A study released at the start of this year found about 7,200 IP addresses that are “directly related to control systems” within the United States. A different study found that American water-control systems could be found online with a simple Google search.
Alan Roberson, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association, says most American utility companies “are aware that they need to separate their control systems from the Internet … but we still don’t know how many have done that, and how many vulnerabilities are left.”
Experts fear that should hackers ever breach these systems, they could cause catastrophic damage. So far, the major cyberattacks against America have been limited to stealing information, not attempting to sabotage America’s infrastructure. But some wonder how long it will be before someone does some serious damage. “I know somebody’s coming. At some point in time, somebody’s coming at me,” said Scott Saunders, information security officer for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. “It’s going to happen.” Now the concern is how to limit the effect of a cyberattack, not how to prevent it.
No matter what the system, experts say it can be hacked. Tim Simonite of MIT Tech Review warned that one of the sensors “used to monitor oil, water, nuclear, and natural gas infrastructure” can be hacked into with “a relatively cheap 40-mile-range radio transmitter.”
America’s port systems are also at risk of being hacked. SecurityInfoWatch.com reported that “No cybersecurity standards have been promulgated for U.S. ports, nor has the U.S. Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for maritime security, been granted cybersecurity authorities to regulate ports or other areas of maritime critical infrastructure.” A recent policy paper released by the Brookings Institute found that of the six major ports it studied, only one had conducted a cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, and none had developed a cyber incident response plan.
Already, America’s infrastructure is under attack. A report by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Henry Waxman earlier this year highlighted the threat. According to the lawmakers’ analysis, one power utility said it already fields 10,000 attempted attacks every month. Rep. James Lankford said at an Edmond Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on April 4, “We are at war.” He went on to say that much of America’s infrastructure has already been compromised and that sleeper codes had already been put in place, just waiting until they needed to be turned on. He said several times, “I’m really giving you a downer today. This is a lot of bad news, and I’m sorry I can’t bring you something positive.”
Representative Lankford is not alone in his analysis of the threat to America. Security experts are becoming quite fearful of what could happen to America. Kyle Wilhoit, a programmer for cybersecurity company Trend Micro, warned that “compromising a real water system would be very easy.” Prof. Peter Ludlow, an Internet culture expert and professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, said, “I don’t even want to think about the worst-case scenario; it could get real ugly.”
The general consensus is that America’s increasing reliance on technology is putting it at greater and greater risk of attack. While many over the past few years have begun to realize the dangers of such reliance, the Trumpet has been at the forefront of sounding the alarm. Since 1995, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has warned that reliance on technology was America’s “Achilles’ heel.” In the January 1995 issue, he wrote,
Now let’s look at an alarming scripture: “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof” (Ezekiel 7:14). The trumpet of war was blown in Israel—mainly America and Britain. It seems everybody was expecting our people to go into battle. But the greatest tragedy imaginable occurred! Nobody went to battle—even though the trumpet was blown! Will it be because of a computer terrorist?
This is something that involves you personally. Will America be attacked? Be sure to read “America’s Achilles’ Heel” to understand what’s coming and who will be responsible for these kinds of attacks. ▪