The threat of a cyber-terrorist attack on U.S. energy companies is very real according to the cyber security firm Symantec.
Symantec warns of the new “Dragonfly virus,” which comes out of Eastern Europe. This malware virus has the power to utterly ruin large swaths of the electric grid should it manage to infect a power company’s computer systems.
The virus — which targets energy grids, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipelines operators, and energy industrial equipment providers — has been around since 2011 and has already affected thousands of organizations in over 84 countries.
According to Symantec, the danger associated with the Dragonfly virus is it gives the hackers running the malware software the ability to gain privileged access inside the company’s operations systems.
Once the software is installed, hackers can torpedo the systems with just the click of a mouse.
Security experts are unsure where the virus originated, but believe that since all of the countries that have been affected so far have been part of NATO, that it could definitely be a foreign nation like Russia who is responsible for the virus.
The fact our nation’s power grids are so susceptible to cyber terrorism is frightening.
Should our nation’s grids suffer any cataclysmic attack, it would render millions of Americans defenseless and unable to provide for themselves.
The worst part about the Dragonfly virus is that many of the nation’s computer systems are believed to already have it since the malware is installed with updates for their operational controls.
The Dragonfly group is said to have at its disposal a range of malware tools to disrupt computer systems, especially industrial control systems. Sources believe it operates similar to the Stuxnet malware that the United States and Israel had used against Iran’s nuclear program to disrupt the operation of its centrifuges that enrich uranium.
According to Symantec, Dragonfly used two main malware tools – Backdoor Oldrea and Trojan Karagany. The former appears to be customized malware written for the attackers.
Eric Chien of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response Team told Bloomberg in an interview the type of access Dragonfly has indicates something more than snooping.
“When they do have that type of access, that motivation wouldn’t be for espionage,” Chien said. “When we look at where they’re at, we’re very concerned about sabotage.”
“The worst-case scenario would be that the systems get shut down,” Chien said. “You could see the power go out, for example, and there could be disruption in that sense.”
And just to make things clear, this is not the only cyber-threat leveled at the power systems here in the U.S.
Recently the FBI uncovered “Ugly Gorilla, a Chinese hacker who has been targeting utility companies’ systems to cut off heat and damage pipelines.”
Knowing how vulnerable the nation’s grid system is to cyber attack means if you want to prepare for a possible “grid down” scenario, you had better do so sooner than later.