The Washington Post has published an article, widely republished and quoted elsewhere, about the increasing possibility of Al Qaeda or other terrorists using the Internet to attack the physical infrastructure of the United States. (Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared) Investigators at a number of federal agencies have concluded that it is well within the realm of possibility for a terrorist to take control of and disable such things as the floodgates of a dam or an electrical power substation. The attacks would be based on the vulnerability of physical infrastructure that has been designed to accept commands over the net by means of “distributed control systems.” These systems used to be physically controlled, but in recent years have been connected to the net using systems that do not take security measures into account. (Isn’t it amazing at our trust level before September 11, 2001?)
The investigators’ fears are further borne out by examples of past mischief, including the work of a disgruntled former employee of an Australian water treatment plant who hijacked controls for sewage treatment. He had remote central control of the system and could have totally disabled the fresh water system for tens of thousands of people. But he didn’t…. Think of someone we don’t like controlling the floodgates of the Hoover Dam…..
It is the stuff of nightmaresóand scary movies that are now even more scary.