January 19, 2008
If you like a little FUD with your kool-aid, the CIA’s latest claim of hacker acitivity will have you salivating:
Hackers literally turned out the lights in multiple cities after breaking into electrical utilities and demanding extortion payments before disrupting the power, a senior CIA analyst told utility engineers at a trade conference.
All the break-ins occurred outside the United States, said senior CIA analyst Tom Donahue. The U.S. government believes some of the hackers had inside knowledge to cause the outages. Donahue did not specify what countries were affected, when the outages occurred or how long the outages lasted. He said they happened in “several regions outside the United States.”
“In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities,” Donahue said in a statement. “We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet.”
A CIA spokesman Friday declined to provide additional details
In a rare public warning to the power and utility industry, a CIA analyst this week said cyber attackers have hacked into the computer systems of utility companies outside the United States and made demands, in at least one case causing a power outage that affected multiple cities.
“We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet,” Tom Donahue, the CIA’s top cybersecurity analyst, said Wednesday at a trade conference in New Orleans.
Donahue’s comments were “designed to highlight to the audience the challenges posed by potential cyber intrusions,” CIA spokesman George Little said. The audience was made up of 300 U.S. and international security officials from the government and from electric, water, oil and gas companies, including BP, Chevron and the Southern Co.
“We suspect, but cannot confirm, that some of the attackers had the benefit of inside knowledge,” Donahue said. He did not specify where or when the attacks took place, their duration or the amount of money demanded. Little said the agency would not comment further.
Hacker History 101. If you’ve never read Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown, YOU NEED TO READ IT! Here’s a link to The Cyberpunk Project’s online version. You can also search for an e-text for offline reading. At least, listen to Cory Doctorow’s podcasts of him reading the book (linkage). The Hacker Crackdown shows how the timing of the “Operation Sundevil” raids, several AT&T system crashes, and the growing hysteria of “the hacker underground” in the popular media came together.
Now, timing seems to be working in favor of the US spy community as the CIA’s claim of hacker activity against utlities comes, suspiciously, only two days after the top US spy Mike McConnell claims that “the government must have the ability to read all the information crossing the Internet in the United States in order to protect it from abuse,” even though former spy Michael Tanji says “this is no way to win an intelligence war.”
Calling all conspiracy theorists… The timing of McConnell’s want of total information awareness and the CIA’s claim of hackers causing blackouts seems to be more than a coincidence. If the claim is true, it gives McConnell the credibility he needs for such absolute net traffic policing.
But if these outages did occur, how come no other media outlet has reported them?