Hacking a power grid sounds like the kind of apocalyptic scenario that experts in the United States and Europe have warned about for years. But many had perceived such warnings as the attempts of the government to scare the public. Until 2007. Then, the U.S. government demonstrated the world how just 21 lines of computer code could physically destroy a generator in roughly three minutes. The experiment called the Aurora Generator Test showed that a cyber attack was actually able to destroy the components of the electric grid. The test featured researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory launching a simulated attack to see if the virus could damage a power plant by hacking into its control system. And it turned it, it could.
Undoubtedly, to commit such an attack one would require a lot of knowledge and skills. But the recent hack of electric utilities in western Ukraine showed one very important thing: hackers do not even need to destroy enormous-size equipment to leave tens of thousands of people without electricity. However, taking down the electric grid is not always the same as keeping it down.
Cyber warfare between corporations and even governments is nothing new, but the world’s most important facilities—nuclear power plants and massive hydroelectric dams—become the target, it may be just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Director of the Cyber Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv Dr. Gabi Siboni says that the disruption and possible penetration into critical infrastructure is the most severe form of cyber attacks. For example, such attack on air traffic control towers could cause accidents or even paralyze the entire flight system. Moreover, he believes that cyber aggression has become a basic weapon used in international conflicts.