People often think of political ramifications when they think of hackers. The huge scandal that rocked the entire country when 21 US states were targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 election has made Americans increasingly suspicious about the effects outside hacking can have. And we think about things like elections, politics, business and finance. But most people don’t assume that hacking can have an effect on energy or the environment. Well, recent hacking has shown otherwise.
Throughout the year, many U.S. power companies had their systems compromised to such a large extent that production could have been halted. This intrusion was done by an unknown outside hacking group and was discovered by Symantec, a cybersecurity company. Apparently, the hackers obtained a lot of information, including: how the company functioned, plans for engineering and equipment and detailing of pipes and conveyor belts. If the intrusion hadn’t been halted by Symantec’s discovery, it could have taken the company out of a business for up to a month, leaving all of its customers without power.
Many might ask, why would hackers target energy companies? Well, hackers often work for entities or governments who are not friendly with the United States and want to show the U.S. that their systems are vulnerable and they can be tampered with. It is perhaps a goal of hacking groups to have the U.S. Military stay out of their (or their origin country’s) affairs and they will use the threat of darkened cities to try and make sure they get what they want.
So are the political hacking actions related to the more recent energy-targeted ones? Many suspect so, but nothing is confirmed. However, recent attacks on energy systems have been allegedly enacted by Russia. In 2015 and 2016, hackers halted Ukraine’s power processes and the effect was so catastrophic that more than 200,000 people were subjected to blackouts. The Ukrainian government has cited their beef with Russia as a reason for the attacks, proposing that the hackers were Russian-supported.
Whoever is behind the attacks, they are truly frightening. The attack appears to be the work of a group that has been hacking the energy sector since 2011. Symantec calls the group Dragonfly. Crowdstrike, another American cybersecurity technology company, called the group Energetic Bear in a report they released in 2014, which even back then, suggested Russians could be behind it. After that report, the group ceased activity for a while. Then, it began to target Turkish energy companies, ultimately turning its focus to Switzerland and the United States.
This is all pretty daunting, but it’s especially important in this day and age, to be sure you can rely upon your energy provider and also ensure that your provider is doing everything they can to protect their company and its customers, such as is the case with City Power and Gas.