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Power User
Posts: 15169

« Reply #100 on: December 22, 2016, 08:24:13 PM »

Ukraine power grids a sign of things to come for U.S.?

Russian hacking to influence the election has dominated the news. But CBS News has also noticed a hacking attack that could be a future means to the U.S. Last weekend, parts of the Ukrainian capitol Kiev went dark. It appears Russia has figured out how to crash a power grid with a click.

Last December, a similar attack occurred when nearly a quarter of a million people lost power in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine when it was targeted by a suspected Russian attack. 

Vasyl Pemchuk is the electric control center manager, and said that when hackers took over their computers, all his workers could do was film it with their cell phones.

“It was illogical and chaotic,” he said. “It seemed like something in a Hollywood movie.”

Vasyl Pemchuk in the control center that was hacked
CBS News

The hackers sent emails with infected attachments to power company employees, stealing their login credentials and then taking control of the grid’s systems to cut the circuit breakers at nearly 60 substations.

The suspected motive for the attack is the war in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists are fighting against Ukrainian government forces.

But hackers could launch a similar attack in the U.S.

“We can’t just look at the Ukraine attack and go ‘oh we’re safe against that attack,’” said Rob Lee, a former cyberwarfare operations officer in the U.S. military, investigated the Ukraine attack.

Rob Lee
CBS News

“Even if we just lose a portion, right? If we have New York City or Washington D.C. go down for a day, two days, a week, what does life look like at that point?” he said.

He said that some U.S. electric utilities have weaker security than Ukraine, and the malicious software the hackers used has already been detected in the U.S.

“It’s very concerning that these same actors using similar capabilities and tradecraft are preparing and are getting access to these business networks, getting access to portions of the power grid,” he said.

In Ukraine, they restarted the power in just hours. But an attack in the U.S. could leave people without electricity for days, or even weeks, according to experts. Because, ironically, America’s advanced, automated grid would be much harder to fix.
Power User
Posts: 15169

« Reply #101 on: January 14, 2017, 08:52:50 PM »

To survive the hacking of a power grid, it’s time to stockpile food, water and medicine
Paul Harasim


Heather Murren, the wife of Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a survivalist or prepper.

Her hair and makeup is just so. Instead of fatigues, she prefers designer wear. She lives in a mansion, not a cave or a shack in the forest.

But when she talks about what she learned as a member of the Commission on Enhancing National Cyberesecurity, what she has to say often sounds much like something we’ve generally thought of as coming from the lips of a backwoods, paranoid, tobacco chewin’, gun totin’, doomsday conspiracy theorist.

It’s time, she says, for Americans to stockpile food, water, medical supplies and other essential everyday items. She says she’s talked to representatives with the American Red Cross and urged them to get the word out to people.

The reason is simple: The nation’s electric power grid is susceptible to cyberwarfare.

Should hackers shut down much of the electrical grid and the critical infrastructure accompanying it, we would have to live for an extended period of time without much of what we now take for granted.

Murren notes experts believe Russia hacked Ukraine’s power grid twice in the past year.

Forget having heat or air conditioning. Water couldn’t be pumped into most homes. ATMs, debit and credit cards wouldn’t work. There would be no banking or air traffic control or traffic lights or Internet. Pharmacies couldn’t dispense medicine. Gas stations couldn’t pump. Say adios to commerce for days or weeks or even months.

“Hacking of the power grid is a significant concern,” said Murren, appointed last year by President Obama to the commission that recently released its report to the nation.

“We can recover from a natural disaster faster than a cyberattack, ” she said. ” When Hurricane Sandy hit we could bring people from throughout the country to help out. But if there’s a cyberattack on the grid in that same region we couldn’t send people from other places because they all use other computer systems. They won’t know the system, what to do.”

What makes Murren’s comments all the more compelling is that they are delivered in the crisp, authoritative, unemotional tone of a Wall Street financier, which she was before moving to Las Vegas.

“Americans should be very concerned,” she stressed.

More people seem to be with each passing day. You can even find directions on the Internet about how to make the water in a swimming pool safe for drinking in an emergency.

While what commission members have to say is in the spotlight today because Russian hacking to influence the presidential election has dominated the news, the observations made on cybersecurity four years ago by then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are no less riveting.

“We know foreign cyberactors … are targeting the computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants … We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems. We also know they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, destruction and even loss of life.”

Murren said more urgency is needed toward cybersecurity, both in government and private industry.

“Technology tends to be viewed by business management as a silo,” she said. “But cyber now touches everything. New board guidelines suggest that at least one board member should have cybersecurity knowledge and that the full board should receive a presentation annually on the subject of cybersecurity. Most businesses don’t do this.”

On the other hand, she said government has too often made businesses go it alone and not played a critical role in coordinating a well-thought-out national digital security system.

She said an appropriate response by the American government to foreign-sanctioned cyberware must be worked out.

“When does it constitute an act of war?” she said.

Murren said the country can’t wait any longer to enact a workable security system.

“Failures in cybersecurity leading to theft of intellectual property are extraordinarily costly … Left unchecked, it can cost us our economic strength and global leadership. Some estimates put the theft of intellectual property — airplane schematics, drug formulas, etc., at $300-$350 billion per year.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter
Power User
Posts: 15169

« Reply #102 on: July 08, 2017, 07:21:20 PM »

I don't agree with every point in the film, but it is a very important movie.
Power User
Posts: 41100

« Reply #103 on: August 08, 2017, 10:23:29 PM »

Just bought a shit load of good-for-thiry-years food.
Power User
Posts: 15169

« Reply #104 on: September 09, 2017, 01:01:27 PM »


IN AN ERA of hacker attacks on critical infrastructure, even a run-of-the-mill malware infection on an electric utility’s network is enough to raise alarm bells. But the latest collection of power grid penetrations went far deeper: Security firm Symantec is warning that a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the US and Europe but also resulted in the intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations—enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil at will.
Symantec on Wednesday revealed a new campaign of attacks by a group it is calling Dragonfly 2.0, which it says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year. In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ networks. And at a handful of US power firms and at least one company in Turkey—none of which Symantec will name—their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces power company engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into US homes and businesses.
“There’s a difference between being a step away from conducting sabotage and actually being in a position to conduct sabotage ... being able to flip the switch on power generation,” says Eric Chien, a Symantec security analyst. “We’re now talking about on-the-ground technical evidence this could happen in the US, and there’s nothing left standing in the way except the motivation of some actor out in the world.”

Never before have hackers been shown to have that level of control of American power company systems, Chien notes. The only comparable situations, he says, have been the repeated hacker attacks on the Ukrainian grid that twice caused power outages in the country in late 2015 and 2016, the first known hacker-induced blackouts.

The Usual Suspects
Security firms like FireEye and Dragos have pinned those Ukrainian attacks on a hacker group known as Sandworm, believed to be based in Russia. But Symantec stopped short of blaming the more recent attacks on any country or even trying to explain the hackers' motives. Chien says the company has found no connections between Sandworm and the intrusions it has tracked. Nor has it directly connected the Dragonfly 2.0 campaign to the string of hacker intrusions at US power companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Palmetto Fusion, which unnamed officials revealed in July and later tied to Russia.
Chien does note, however, that the timing and public descriptions of the Palmetto Fusion hacking campaigns match up with its Dragonfly findings. “It’s highly unlikely this is just coincidental,” Chien says. But he adds that while the Palmetto Fusion intrusions included a breach of a nuclear power plant, the most serious DragonFly intrusions Symantec tracked penetrated only non-nuclear energy companies, which have less strict separations of their internet-connected IT networks and operational controls.

As Symantec's report on the new intrusions details, the company has tracked the Dragonfly 2.0 attacks back to at least December of 2015, but found that they ramped up significantly in the first half of 2017, particularly in the US, Turkey, and Switzerland. Its analysis of those breaches found that they began with spearphishing emails that tricked victims into opening a malicious attachment—the earliest they found was a fake invitation to a New Year's Eve party—or so-called watering hole attacks that compromise a website commonly visited by targets to hack victims' computers.
Those attacks were designed to harvest credentials from victims and gain remote access to their machines. And in the most successful of those cases, including several instances in the US and one in Turkey, the attackers penetrated deep enough to screenshot the actual control panels for their targets' grid operations—what Symantec believes was a final step in positioning themselves to sabotage those systems at will. "That’s exactly what you’d do if you were to attempt sabotage," he says. "You’d take these sorts of screenshots to understand what you had to do next, like literally which switch to flip."
And if those hackers did gain the ability to cause a blackout in the US, why did they stop short? Chien reasons that they may have been seeking the option to cause an electric disruption but waiting for an opportunity that would be most strategically useful—say, if an armed conflict broke out, or potentially to issue a well-timed threat that would deter the US from using its own hacking capabilities against another foreign nation's critical infrastructure. "If these attacks are from a nation state," Chien says, "one would expect sabotage only in relation to a political event."

The Ukrainian Precedent
Not every group of hackers has shown that kind of restraint. Hackers now believed to be the Russian group Sandworm used exactly the sort of access to electricity control interfaces that Symantec describes Dragonfly having to shut off the power to a quarter million Ukrainians in December 2015. In one case they took over the remote help desk tool of a Ukrainian energy utility to hijack engineers' mouse controls and manually clicked through dozens of circuit breakers, turning off the power to tens of thousands of people as the engineers watched helplessly.

Operations like that one and a more automated blackout attack a year later have made Russia the first suspect in any grid-hacking incident. But Symantec notes that the hackers mostly used freely available tools and existing vulnerabilities in software rather than previously unknown weaknesses, making any attribution more difficult. They found some Russian-language strings of code in the malware used in the intrusions, but also some hints of French. They note that either language could be a "false flag" meant to throw off investigators.
In naming the hacking campaign Dragonfly, however, Symantec does tie it to an earlier, widely analyzed set of intrusions also aimed at the US and European energy sectors, which stretched from as early as 2010 to 2014. The hackers behind that series of attacks, called Dragonfly by Symantec but also known by the names Energetic Bear, Iron Liberty, and Koala, shared many of the same characteristics as the more recent Dragonfly 2.0 attacks, Symantec says, including infection methods, two pieces of malware used in the intrusions, and energy sector victims. And both the security firm Crowdstrike and the US government have linked those earlier Dragonfly attacks with the Kremlin—a report published by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI last December included the group on its list of known Russian-government hacking operations.

Symantec says it has assisted the power companies that experienced the deepest penetrations, helping them eject the hackers from their networks. The firm also sent warnings to more than a hundred companies about the Dragonfly 2.0 hackers, as well as to the Department of Homeland Security and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which is responsible for the stability of the US power grid. NERC didn't immediate answer WIRED's request for comment on Symantec's findings, but DHS spokesperson Scott McConnell wrote in a statement that "DHS is aware of the report and is reviewing it," and "at this time there is no indication of a threat to public safety."
But Symantec's Chien nonetheless warns any company that thinks it may be a target of the hackers to not only remove any malware it has identified as the group's calling card but also to refresh their staff's credentials. Given the hackers' focus on stealing those passwords, even flushing all malware out of a targeted network might not prevent hackers from gaining a new foothold if they still have employees' working logins.
The Dragonfly hackers remain active even today, Chien warns, and electric utilities should be on high alert. Given that the group has, in some form, been probing and penetrating energy utility targets for the past seven years, don't expect them to stop now.
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