(HorizonPost.com) – The date was August 14, 2003, and the time was 4:10 p.m. Eastern when a power surge in Akron, OH, went unnoticed. By 4:13, a large swath of the United States and Canada suddenly found themselves without electricity. Faulty equipment was the source of the chaos on that day, but it highlighted a vulnerability in America’s infrastructure that has been exploited by cyber terrorists a few times and has raised concerns about the future with the advent of cross connectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT).
On Friday, February 5, 2021, a hacker accessed the water treatment plant controls in this Tampa suburb. They were able to infiltrate the system through a forgotten program still in place on the servers.
The criminal tried to poison the water supply by increasing the sodium hydroxide (lye) concentration a hundredfold, which might have made thousands of people sick and possibly dead. Fortunately for people in the Bay area, an observant technician saw it happening in real-time and countermanded the instructions.
A Recent Occurrence and Concerns for the Future
Towards the end of December 2020, in an event that has been dubbed the “SolarWinds” attack (named for the software that was hacked to gain access), hackers gained access to computer systems associated with the US government, the military and Fortune 500 companies. Two months later, we still don’t know what the long-term impact of this attack might be.
As businesses and government organizations become more and more digitized, they also become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The FISMA FY 2018 Annual Report to Congress stated that more than 30,000 cyber security incidents involving federal agencies in 2018. Despite ever-evolving security measures, the risk remains. A 2017 WikiLeaks dump even showed documents that indicate the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) can access any device connected to the Internet. This is a strong indication that the technology is out there, and that no system or device is completely secure against an attack.
Thankfully, the attack in Florida didn’t hurt or kill anyone. But without the proper security measures, a future attack against a similar company could be devastating. So many devices are part of the IoT now, from baby monitors and smart homes to computers used in the US government’s day-to-day operations — these warnings no longer seem to be saying something “could” happen, but rather that it’s only a matter of time. And American citizens will need to be prepared when it does.
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