Just one month after the Ukrainian power network was the victim of a cyber attack, hackers did it again last week. This time they were able to penetrate the national electricity network of Israel. Minister of energy Steinitz announced this news himself, when the attack was still in full force. Contrary to in Ukraine, where the virus was detected and eliminated in time. Although the damage in the last attack was fairly limited, these two recent events demonstrate how hackers are more and more aiming at infrastructural targets.
Last year we already we already warned about this evolving threat. And we’ll be seeing more of these kinds of attacks, since there’s money to make or political goals to achieve. This is just the beginning.
Risk not restricted to power supplies
One of the biggest dangers of such attacks on crucial utilities, is that the risks are not limited to energy supply, but they can spread extend across the network. Think about bridges, security of dams, water supply, telco infrastructure, radio and television.
Motive: political or commercial
Right now it’s not clear yet where the attack in Israel came from. Often we see that hackers have either a commercial or a political motive. Ransomware is such a commercial motive, since hackers can ask for payment for the victims to gain access again to polluted systems and infrastructure.
In Israel, the timing of the hackers was impeccable. The attack took place at exactly the moment there was a major peak in energy consumption because of the fierce winter. They probably prepared this a long time in advance, and waited for the right time: the moment when the impact would be biggest.
A political motive can certainly not be ruled out. Taking down such an important network in the infrastructure can lead to instability and even human damage. Being without power with these winter temperatures can have serious consequences for some people, like elders or children.
The threats for Belgium
Every network where equipment and computers are connected, is vulnerable for threats. It is extremely difficult to provide all services and equipment with the latest security updates. If these networks are also connected to the internet in a different way, the risk will only increase. Apart from that, malicious code can also enter critical infrastructures through employees, USB’s or contaminated smart devices. Up until now we have no knowledge of any big incidents in the western world, but this might only be a matter of time. Man is often the weakest link, so attacks like the ones in Ukraine and Israel can also happen closer to home.
It’s a good thing that the protection of critical infrastructure has always received elaborate attention, which definitely makes it harder to penetrate. Nevertheless, these incidents show once again that it’s not impossible.
Check out the article on Computable as well: