Foreign cyber-spies have reportedly been infiltrating the US electrical grid and planting software that can be used to destroy key components.
According to the Wall Street Journal - which cites unnamed national security officials - electro-spooks hailing from China, Russia, and "other countries" are trying to navigate and control the power grid as well as other US infrastructure like water and sewage.
The intruders don't appear to have attempted to cause any damage yet, but US intelligence officials worry they'll try during a crisis or war, the paper said.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic have warned lax cyber-security may leave critical infrastructure vulnerable to terrorists and saboteurs — although usually specific countries aren't fingered as culprits.
"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," an unnamed senior intelligence official told the WSJ. "So have the Russians."
This appears to be an assumption based on the sophistication of the US intrusions. But officials aren't sure about the motivation — as, for instance, China doesn't have much reason to disrupt the country's economy when its loans are presently paying the US government's bills.
The security trouble is linked to so-called supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), software used to control switches and valves at power generators, gas refineries, and manufacturing plants across the world. As more of the systems are being hooked to the internet and corporate intranets to save costs, the easier it is for cyber ne'er-do-wells to gain ill-intended access. Because security on the systems is not regulated in the US, protection of key infrastructure left in the hands of the industry.
Chinese and Russian officials denied electrical grid espionage in the report. ®