Cyberattacks are a fact of life in the digital age, but a new round of attacks aimed at disabling aspects of U.S. critical infrastructure is cause for concern to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It has issued warnings that say a new wave of cyberattacks originating from the Middle East aim at sabotage, rather than espionage.
Energy companies have been the primary target, with probes being conducted to find ways to seize controls of their processing systems. Hackers based out of Iran have launched cyberattacks against the computer networks running energy companies, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
The DHS said in a report that the energy sector was targeted about 40 percent of the time when there were reported cyberattacks on critical infrastructure networks during 2012.
“We are concerned by these intrusions, and we are trying to make sure they don’t lead to something much bigger, as they did in the Saudi case,” said a senior American official in the New York Times.
He referred to the attack in 2012 of 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil producers, which was said to have originated in Iran. The attackers attempted to penetrate the oil production systems but were unsuccessful.
Recently hackers based in China have continued to infiltrate the networks of U.S. corporations to seize intellectual property, however, the attacks from Iran and other areas in the Middle East have had more hostile intents to damage systems.
The attacks from Iran have focused on the vulnerabilities in the control systems that manage oil and gas companies, as well as power companies. These systems run the infrastructure by regulating flows of gas and electricity and other important functions.
Yet computer security company Mandiant Corporation says cyber attackers haven’t been able to successfully damage U.S. critical infrastructure – such as shut down a power grid – yet.
“We have yet to see a state or non-state actor use the type of access needed for data theft to destroy or degrade a network,” said Laura Galante, Senior Threat Intelligence Analyst at Mandiant.
“Groups like the Syrian Electronic Army, who have appeared recently in news stories, disrupt websites and Web traffic to quickly and publicly draw attention to their victims but have not demonstrated an ability or willingness to target critical infrastructure. We have not observed in press reporting or among our clients, network attacks on critical infrastructure.”
Galante suggests that every company, large or small, should have at the very least one person dedicated to securing the company’s computer infrastructure. This team or individual should have the knowledge and tools required to collect and analyze data from the network, computer, and applications.
“Companies need to embrace security incident response management as an active process that on a daily basis requires constant vigilance and well-understood roles and responsibilities,” Galante said.Tags: Security,Technology