Friday, September 16, 2011

Cyber attacks are becoming lethal, warns US cyber commander

Cyber attacks are escalating from large-scale theft and disruption of computer operations to more lethal attacks that destroy systems and physical equipment, according to the head of the US Cyber Command.


“That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace – a destructive element,” General Keith Alexander told a conference on cyber warfare, according to the Washington Times.

Alexander, who is also the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), said that future computer-based combat is likely to involve cyber strikes that cause widespread power outages and even physical destruction of machinery.

The potential for cyber attacks to do this, he said, is illustrated by the electrical power outage in the Northeast US in 2003 caused by the freezing of software that controlled the power grid after a tree damaged two high-voltage power lines, and the destruction of a water-driven electrical generator at Russia’s Sayano-Shushenskaya dam in 2009 that was caused by a computer operator remotely starting the generator while one of the dam’s turbines was being serviced.