The National Security Agency is warning the White House that hackers may soon have the ability to create power outages using cyber-attacks. The agency's director, Gen. Keith Alexander, has gone on record that cyber-attackers have the ability to take down or damage computer networks.
American industries that rely on automated control systems that connect to the Internet remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks because of a lack of adequate security, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, which issued a warning on Friday. According to the FBI, hackers regularly probe U.S. utilities and industrial firms for vulnerabilities; on Oct. 31, Symantec warned about a malware attack that targeted chemical and military assets.
The number of cyber-attacks is in decline, according to Cisco Systems, but that doesn't mean criminals are taking a hiatus. Instead of widespread attacks that go after thousands of servers at once, malicious coders are engaging in more targeted -- and lucrative -- activities, such as stealing sensitive data for organizations that pay for their services. According to Cisco's Global Adversary Resource Market Share Index, hackers now favor spyware and data-theft Trojans over tools that disrupt networks but gain little in return.
The Defense Department has clarified its position on cyber-attacks, labeling state-sponsored hacking as a potential "act of war" that may warrant a conventional military response, according to military officials discussing the Pentagon's soon-to-be-released cybersecurity plan. "A cyber-attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap. News of the policy shift comes days after military contractor Lockheed Martin said it is boosting its defenses following a "significant and tenacious" cyber-attack against its networks.