The cyber-attack on the U.S energy grid carried out by the Russians is causing panic amongst the Washington community due to the rising threats to the energy sector.
Certain officials fear that Moscow or other nations could plan a cyberattack and target the U.S grid.
“The next December 7 won’t be airplanes and torpedoes coming at Pearl Harbor, it’s going to be triggered with an attack on our energy grid with rolling blackouts and chaos,” said a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Representative Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
Russians have been staging cyberattacks against the U.S energy sector and other infrastructure since 2016, according to the FBI officials. They have also tracked a hacking campaign that was carried out by Russia.
A public alert has been issued by the officials regarding how the hackers were able to get into the systems to gain unauthorized access to the energy sector, which enabled them to access crucial data on the control systems.
“They were on machines that were on the operational network that had the control panel not only monitoring but also control for systems that were generating power, generating electricity,” said Eric Chien – the technical director of a cyber-security firm Symantec.
The latest revelations regarding Russian attacks has also brought up new concerns about the hacker’s abilities to gain access and control the power systems and other infrastructure.
“I am very much concerned, not only [about] Russia but any enemy, domestic enemy or foreign enemy,” said a participant of the Energy and Commerce Committee – Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). “Our energy sector is very vulnerable to invasive attacks.”
Keeping these threats in consideration, the Department of Energy has planned on opening a new cyber security and energy security office. The 2019 fiscal budget proposed by President Trump will help in providing the needed funding.
Rick Perry, the energy secretary, has reassured the lawmakers that the Trump Administration is working hard on eliminating all such attacks.
“We’re making, I think, every effort to protect the electrical grid from those types of attacks,” Perry said.
Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), the head of the Homeland Security Committee, said, “We’re constantly following up when we get reports like that.”
“The Department of Homeland Security has never had more cyber expertise than it has right now,” added Ratcliffe. “For all of the concerns about Russian meddling into our election and more generally into our critical infrastructure, we’re better equipped to deal with it than we’ve been at any point in the past.”
The threats faced by the U.S energy sector go beyond Moscow. 9 hackers from Iran were sanctioned by the U.S for breaching more than hundreds of organizations and universities in an attempt to steal information for their government. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was one of their targets, according to the officials.
“That is the agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil,” said the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Geoffrey Berman. “That agency has details of some of this country’s most sensitive infrastructure.”