When you think of malware attacks, images of computers going haywire and networks being disrupted probably come to mind. But a malware attack can affect far more than that. In the Ukraine, an electric grid malware attack was recently discovered as the cause of power outages. Malware can have far-reaching consequences, affecting more than the computers in our personal lives or organizations. Now that malware has the potential to cut the power in our communities, we shudder to think: what else is at risk?
Areas of Concern
Malware researcher Robert Lipovsky of ESET (a Slovakian anti-virus software maker) reported that the malware found in Ukraine is easily reproducible and modifiable, such that it could also target local infrastructure such as transportation, water, and gas providers. Robert M. Lee, founder of Dragos (a U.S. critical-infrastructure security firm), says that while the malware is capable of causing outages lasting up to several days in parts of a nation’s grid, it is not powerful enough to put out the entire national grid. While this may be somewhat reassuring, this malware, also known as Industroyer or Crash Override, “is only the second piece of malware uncovered to date that is capable of disrupting industrial processes without the need for hackers to manually intervene” (Finkle, 2017). With cyber attacks on the rise though, it’s not likely to be the last. Electric grid malware attacks are likely to continue, along with other key infrastructure that is managed or maintained by computer systems.
Keeping an Eye Out
Malware, by definition, still primarily targets computer systems. But those systems can control more than we may realize, and the effects of malware on our systems can wreak disastrous havoc on things we depend on. As the Internet of Things becomes more prevalent and an increasing number of devices become connected, we must keep a close watch on any suspicious or abnormal activity within our networks, while also making sure we are consistently taking preventative measures. An electric grid malware attack is likely only the beginning.
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Finkle, J. (2017, June 12). Cyber firms warn of malware that could cause power outages. Reuters.