PC World: Technology Advice You Can Trust
Sign inJoin Us
Find a Review
Free Newsletters
Receive the latest reviews, how-to's, news, and more.
WiFi Finder
Locate wireless services by a specific address, city, state, country, airport, or zip code.
RSS Feeds
Get our latest content via convenient RSS feeds.
Latest News
Today @ PC World
Become a PCW Member
Join the community and start enjoying the benefits:
  • Get tech advice from thousands of PC World Members
  • Rate and recommend the latest tech products
  • Share your thoughts in blog and article comments
  • Get free excerpts and exclusive discounts on Super Guides
Read More About: HackersNetwork SecurityIndustry NewsCybercrime

CIA Says Hackers Have Cut Power Grid

Several cities outside the U.S. have sustained attacks on utility systems and extortion demands.

Robert McMillan, IDG News Service

Saturday, January 19, 2008 6:00 AM PST
Recommend this story?
Yes276 Votes
No25 Votes

Criminals have been able to hack into computer systems via the Internet and cut power to several cities, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency analyst said this week.

Speaking at a conference of security professionals on Wednesday, CIA analyst Tom Donahue disclosed the recently declassified attacks while offering few specifics on what actually went wrong.

Criminals have launched online attacks that disrupted power equipment in several regions outside of the U.S., he said, without identifying the countries affected. The goal of the attacks was extortion, he said.

"We have information, from multiple regions outside the United States, of cyber intrusions into utilities, followed by extortion demands," he said in a statement posted to the Web on Friday by the conference's organizers, the SANS Institute. "In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities. We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet."

"According to Mr. Donahue, the CIA actively and thoroughly considered the benefits and risks of making this information public, and came down on the side of disclosure," SANS said in the statement.

One conference attendee said the disclosure came as news to many of the government and industry security professionals in attendance. "It appeared that there were a lot of people who didn't know this already," said the attendee, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak with the press.

He confirmed SANS' report of the talk. "There were apparently a couple of incidents where extortionists cut off power to several cities using some sort of attack on the power grid, and it does not appear to be a physical attack," he said.

Hacking the power grid made front-page headlines in September when CNN aired a video showing an Idaho National Laboratory demonstration of a software attack on the computer system used to control a power generator. In the demonstration, the smoking generator was rendered inoperable.

The U.S. is taking steps to lock down the computers that manage its power systems, however.

On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved new mandatory standards designed to improve cybersecurity.

CIA representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.

Recommend this story?
Yes276 Votes
No25 Votes
Related Searches: hackers security power grid

we need bruce willis now more than ever
Sat Jan 19 11:53:02 PST 2008
Latest News
The FDA recommends broader studies of the effects of RF energy and general cell use, especially on children. 20-Jan-2008
The wired instrument isn't digital, but it can stream Internet radio--for a price. 20-Jan-2008
HTC reports it sold last year 2 million of the Microsoft-based smartphones developed to compete with iPhone. 20-Jan-2008
IGG Software's iBank 3 update supports transactions via iPhone as well as the newest Mac OS. 20-Jan-2008
In electronic form, the popular hymnal Mission Praise can be searched, downloaded, and shared. 20-Jan-2008
Tango X2 provides a dock and speaker system for the Apple iPod, among other XtremeMac add-ons. 20-Jan-2008
The chipmaker is upbeat about growth prospects in Asia, but is also watching the economic developments in the U.S. 20-Jan-2008
Each vendor spins the year-end results to its advantage, but Sony had to scramble hardest. 20-Jan-2008
The new audio and video player has a smaller screen, function list, and price tag than Apple's entry. 20-Jan-2008
Pizza Hut's cell and Web orders aren't unique but they're widespread--and the firm expects mobile orders are the future. 19-Jan-2008

PC World's Marketplace

PC World's Free Whitepapers

Name City
Address 1 State Zip
Address 2 E-mail (optional)