The Digital Threat: Cyberattacks Put Critical Infrastructure under Fire

By George, Torsten | Risk Management, October 2011 | Go to article overview

The Digital Threat: Cyberattacks Put Critical Infrastructure under Fire


George, Torsten, Risk Management


The growing number of cyberattacks has become one of the most serious economic and national security threats facing companies and governments. And while the headlines have focused on data breaches at organizations including Sony, the International Monetary Fund, Lockheed Martin, Google, Citigroup and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, U.S. infrastructure is also susceptible to attacks.

Critical infrastructure operators have to be on the offensive against cybercriminals no matter whether they oversee stock markets, power grids, railways, nuclear plants, water supplies, health care facilities, chemical plants, telecommunications or research laboratories. All are prime targets for hackers.

Sophisticated exploits such as Stuxnet, a computer worm that targeted nuclear power plant operators in the summer of 2010, and an April attack on Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a U.S. Energy Department facility that studies nuclear fusion and hosts one of the nation's super computers, are just the tip of the iceberg. A recent survey conducted by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies revealed that 80% of critical infrastructure operators have faced threats ranging from denial-of-service attacks to extortion to advanced persistent attacks.

Government cybersecurity experts who testified in front of the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight in July further highlighted the concern, asserting that the country is lagging in its effort to beef up IT security. According to witness statements by senior cyberdefense personnel from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Government Accountability Office, the government's efforts to safeguard military and private-sector networks deemed to be part of the country's critical infrastructure are far behind schedule. Only two of 24 recommendations from the Obama administration's "Cyberspace Policy Review" have been implemented since its release in May 2009. Progress has been slow because federal agencies struggle to clearly define roles and responsibilities, according to the experts. Furthermore, DHS needs to improve its analysis and warning capabilities to be able to respond to threats.

In addition, the witnesses voiced their concerns about critical industrial systems being able to fend off Stuxnet. According to Sean McGurk, director of DHS' National Cyber-security and Communications Integration Center, it was questionable if all of the approximately 300 companies using the Siemens systems that Stuxnet could compromise had implemented the recommended security precautions to guard against the worm. Others have similar fears. Within DHS, many worry that other attackers can use "increasingly public information" about the worm to launch variants that would target other industrial control systems.

Similar concerns came from U.S. Cyber Command head General Keith Alexander, who stated at his confirmation hearing that "the Department of Defense requires a focused approach to secure its own networks, given our military's dependence on them for command and control, logistics and military operations." Gen. Alexander emphasized that one of his priorities as the new head of the nation's cyberdefense would be building the capacity, the capability and the critical partnerships required to secure operational networks. (See "Hacking the Military," page 30).

ATTACKER PROFILES

With the re-emergence of "grey hat" hackers, a term that includes the high-profile groups LulzSec and Anonymous and describes those motivated by activism or an anti-security ideal, critical infrastructure providers are facing a far larger pool of combatants than they had to confront just 12 months ago. With the radicalization of the activist movement over the past few years, this group of hackers represents a serious threat to critical infrastructure providers. Anti-nuclear activists, for example, could attempt to disrupt a nuclear power plant to engender fear among citizens and exploit the ensuing media coverage for their own purposes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Digital Threat: Cyberattacks Put Critical Infrastructure under Fire
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.