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Cyber War: Sabotaging the System. We are under attack!

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posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 01:51 AM

While reading about the power outage in Brazil, I stumbled upon this piece done by 60 Minutes, just this Sunday:

Here is the full transcript.

Nothing has ever changed the world as quickly as the Internet has. Less than a decade ago, "60 Minutes" went to the Pentagon to do a story on something called information warfare, or cyber war as some people called it. It involved using computers and the Internet as weapons.

Much of it was still theory, but we were told that before too long it might be possible for a hacker with a computer to disable critical infrastructure in a major city and disrupt essential services, to steal millions of dollars from banks all over the world, infiltrate defense systems, extort millions from public companies, and even sabotage our weapons systems.

Today it's not only possible, all of that has actually happened, plus a lot more we don't even know about.

It's why President Obama has made cyber war defense a top national priority and why some people are already saying that the next big war is less likely to begin with a bang than a blackout.


The piece includes this interesting focus:

"Can you imagine your life without electric power?" Retired Admiral Mike McConnell asked correspondent Steve Kroft.


"If I were an attacker and I wanted to do strategic damage to the United States, I would either take the cold of winter or the heat of summer, I probably would sack electric power on the U.S. East Cost, maybe the West Coast, and attempt to cause a cascading effect. All of those things are in the art of the possible from a sophisticated attacker," McConnell explained.

"Do you believe our adversaries have the capability of bringing down a power grid?" Kroft asked.

"I do," McConnell replied.

Asked if the U.S. is prepared for such an attack, McConnell told Kroft, "No. The United States is not prepared for such an attack."


Four months after taking office, Obama made those concerns part of our national defense policy, declaring the country's digital infrastructure a strategic asset, and confirming that cyber warfare had moved beyond theory.

"We know that cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid, and that in other countries cyber attacks have plunged entire cities into darkness," the president said.

President Obama didn't say which country had been plunged into darkness, but a half a dozen sources in the military, intelligence, and private security communities have told us the president was referring to Brazil.

Several prominent intelligence sources confirmed that there were a series of cyber attacks in Brazil: one north of Rio de Janeiro in January 2005 that affected three cities and tens of thousands of people, and another, much larger event beginning on Sept. 26, 2007.

That one in the state of Espirito Santo affected more than three million people in dozens of cities over a two-day period, causing major disruptions. In Vitoria, the world's largest iron ore producer had seven plants knocked offline, costing the company $7 million. It is not clear who did it or what the motive was.

See Massive Brazil blackout triggers crime alert

See also:

Brazil's largest cities hit by blackout

Dam failure triggers huge blackout in Brazil

It is absolutely astonishing the scale of the risk and the damage ALREADY being done. The 60 Minutes piece also includes these amazing bits too:

"In 2007 we probably had our electronic Pearl Harbor. It was an espionage Pearl Harbor," Lewis said. "Some unknown foreign power, and honestly, we don't know who it is, broke into the Department of Defense, to the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, probably the Department of Energy, probably NASA. They broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information."

How much is a terabyte?

"The Library of Congress, which has millions of volumes, is about 12 terabytes. So, we probably lost the equivalent of a Library of Congress worth of government information in 2007," Lewis explained.

"All stolen by foreign countries?" Kroft asked.

"Yeah. This was a serious attack. And that's really what made people wake up and say, 'Hey, we've got to get a grip on this,'" Lewis said.

I remember hearing something about this attack, but I had no idea of its scale!


But since then, there has been an even more serious breach of computer security, which Lewis called the most significant incident ever publicly acknowledged by the Pentagon.

Last November, someone was able to get past the firewalls and encryption devices of one of the most sensitive U.S. military computer systems and stay inside for several days.

"This was the CENTCOM network," Lewis explained. "The command that's fighting our two wars. And some foreign power was able to get into their networks. And sit there and see everything they did. That was a major problem. And that's really had a big effect on D.O.D."

And this:

Of all the critical components in the U.S. infrastructure, the power grid is one of the most vulnerable to cyber attack. The U.S. government has control of its own computers and those of the military. The power grid, which is run and regulated by private utilities, is unbeholden to government security decrees.


...the companies are under no obligation to fix the vulnerabilities, which was graphically demonstrated in a much more realistic fashion at the Idaho National Labs two years ago in a project called "Aurora."

A group of scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy facility wanted to see if they could physically blow up and permanently disable a 27-ton power generator using the Internet.

"If you can hack into that control system, you can instruct the machine to tear itself apart. And that's what the Aurora test was. And if you've seen the video, it's kind of interesting, 'cause the machine starts to shudder. You know, it's clearly shaking. And smoke starts to come out. It destroys itself," Jim Lewis explained.

Asked what the real-world consequences of this would be, Lewis said, "The big generators that we depend on for electrical power are one, expensive, two, no longer made in the U.S., and three, require a lead time of three or four months to order them. So, it's not like if we break one, we can go down to the hardware store and get a replacement. If somebody really thought about this, they could knock a generator out, they could knock a power plant out for months. And that's the real consequence."

Am I the only one amazed by this information?

"My impression is most people understand that there is a threat out there. I don't think most people understand that there are incidents that are happening," Kroft remarked.

Indeed. I had now clue it was THAT big or that we were THAT vulnerable.

Meanwhile, I wonder if what happened in Brazil was a coincidence or something related to this subject?

[edit on 11-11-2009 by loam]

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 02:07 AM
Reminded me of the "Northeast Blackout of 2003" and other simular events that we had discussed here on ATS when they occured.

We came to the conclusion it was "most probably", caused by EMP and/or graphite bombs in strategic locations.

The theory that it was or could be net based didn't exist or wasn't mentioned as far as I recall.

Great thread subject, this is the sort of stuff we ought to pay more attention to.

So, net bomb, or EMP or graphite, all of the above?
Begs the question, why bother with physical material that leaves evidence, when you can do it untraced via the web.

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 02:33 AM
More interesting detail from Brazil:

The outage, which started at 10:15 pm Tuesday (0015 GMT Wednesday), originated at the Itaipu hydroelectric plant that straddles the border between Brazil and Paraguay, supplying both with much of their energy needs.

Brazilian Energy Minister Edson Lobao said it was not yet known what caused the unprecedented "complete paralysis" of the entire plant, but speculated that lightning from a storm might have shorted one of the facility's five high-tension supply lines.

The plant provides around 20 percent of the energy needs of Brazil, Latin America's most populous and economically important nation.

Paraguay, which gets 90 percent of its electricity from the installation, was virtually without power for at least 15 minutes because of the problem, according to reports.


...estimated that 50 million people, or more than a quarter of Brazil's 190-million-strong population, were suddenly thrown into the dark.


That's huge!

Isn't it interesting the language used is "unprecedented complete paralysis" potentially caused by lightening.

Really? Lightening did that?

Here is an image I took from google maps:


[edit on 11-11-2009 by loam]

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:27 AM
The newspaper actually reports that it was a storm that did all this in Brazil this night, not a single lightning on the dam or a cyber attack, but a severe storm that got down some energy towers that made the distribution of the energy to the country and made possible all this mess.

Source: (Brazilian Website)

Sorry for the bad english.


posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:47 AM
Great thread, very interesting and thought provoking...thank you.

I've just finished reading the book "One Second After", the story of a guy in the US military, surviving after an EMP blast form a nuke renders a lot of the area useless.

Some scary points in the book that we wouldn't normaly bother with. Refrigerated medication, hospital patients dying without machines, that kind of thing.

Just another reason why i prep extensively now for power outages. Whether they be a few hours, or days and months, by storm or by attack, i will not see my family suffer because i didn't look after them.

From a national security point of view, i can see how a power outage could be devastating. From a home point of view, it's not much better.

Just a few things to ponder for your home....

Alternative power/batteries/solar/wind up items/generators.

Water and food. Do you have it? Can you cook it? Is it safe to eat without refridgeration?

Home defence, you'll need it if all the electric was no more.

Thoughts about medication for you and your family.

It always makes me chuckle when i see people running to the shops to get batteries and torches when theres a power cut, only to find that the shops are shut due to no power.

Unfortunately it wouldn't be a laughing matter if the power was out for more than a day or so.

Get it sorted now, live through it better later. While scoffed at by some, after threads like this, the survival forum doesn't seem such a bad place to hang out all of a sudden does it?


posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:28 AM
Can someone explain to me why these power stations are internet controlled / attached anyway? Surely the easiest way to defend from this is to pull out a network cable. What possible reason can there be for something like a power station to be online? My refridgerator doesnt need to be online, so why a power station? This looks to me to be more 'net based fear mongering to coerce the populace into wanting more restrictions on the 'net.

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 07:06 AM
Dunno if this has anything to with the topic, but my computer was just a moment ago attacked by a virus and my friend's computer crashed totally - almost simultaneously.

I haven't downloaded anything suspectable recently. I got virus alert when opening my SSH program when trying to read my e-mail. I removed the virus and along it, the infected program got removed.


posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 07:22 AM
Here's an interesting clip; it is a teaser for upcoming free internet series, made in co-work by the creators of Starwreck the movie and F-Secure, a Finnish data security company - even it is fictional, it raises important questions:


posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 12:22 PM
For what it is worth:

Explanation sought over Brazil blackout

Brazil's president sought an urgent explanation for the worst power outage in a decade...


An energy ministry official said that initial findings showed the outage was triggered when a major storm downed three power lines that run from the giant Itaipu hydroelectric dam on Brazil's border with Paraguay.


But some energy experts questioned whether a storm could cause such a widespread power outage in two countries.


Zimmermann denied that the problem could have been caused by computer hackers.

It is interesting to note that the EXACT same rationale and denials have been made in the previous blackout we now know to have been caused by "hackers".

[edit on 11-11-2009 by loam]

posted on Nov, 13 2009 @ 08:50 PM

Brazil blackout cause uncertain, president says

Brazil's president suggested Friday that bad weather may not have caused a massive blackout that left nearly a third of the population without electricity, saying he'll wait for an investigation to conclude how the outage happened.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva backed off earlier claims by his energy minister that strong storms, wind and lightning caused a failure in transmission lines — after the government's own satellite imagery showed that lightning strikes were neither close enough nor strong enough to cause such damage.

Well, isn't that interesting?

I have a hunch that sabotage is EXACTLY what this was....

Think about how big this was......60 Million people in the dark.

Are we next?

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 09:32 AM
Thought this thread from brill was a good one to post here.

Cyber ShockWave Hits Washington

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 09:42 AM
My tax refund is coming tonight, so I will finally be able to get my survival supplies in, soon.

But I have a different comment to make on this subject.

I saw the photo in your picture, and almost cried, at the beauty of the darkness. I would have been outside soaking in the night sky, now visible and brilliant without the light pollution of the city obscuring it.

If people would just prepare and be aware, what seems like awful disasters can be turned into positive things. Maybe we as humans depend on technology too much. Maybe we as humans need to restructure our systems or find other better systems.

My two cents.


posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 09:49 AM

Originally posted by hotbakedtater

I saw the photo in your picture, and almost cried, at the beauty of the darkness. I would have been outside soaking in the night sky, now visible and brilliant without the light pollution of the city obscuring it.

If people would just prepare and be aware, what seems like awful disasters can be turned into positive things.

So very true.

When there is a power cut here, me and the kids are sorted, so once i know the neighbours are ok, we go out and enjoy it, rather than stay indoors and moan about it.

The world is a beautiful place at night, it's just a shame so many people shut themselves away for it.


posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 11:16 AM
reply to post by CX

Yes! Can you omagine walking through a beautiful city in complete natural darkness? To be able to stand in times square with your lover and kiss under the star light in the city you love?

I think it would be nice to have scheduled blackouts in all major cities, regularly, so our children , some of whom from birth have seen our night sky in its glory ONLY IN TEXTBOOKS OR TV can gaze up and enjoy the stars and let their imaginations wonder.

I am probably an idealist, but such an idea is educational and green.

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 05:36 PM

Originally posted by PGRacer
Can someone explain to me why these power stations are internet controlled / attached anyway? Surely the easiest way to defend from this is to pull out a network cable. What possible reason can there be for something like a power station to be online? My refridgerator doesnt need to be online, so why a power station? This looks to me to be more 'net based fear mongering to coerce the populace into wanting more restrictions on the 'net.

I tend to agree with this analysis.

" 'net based fear mongering to coerce the populace into wanting more restrictions on the 'net. " for the national security stuff - top secret and sensitive files should be (and likely are) kept on systems separated from the internet. military operations might be different - but why not find another solution - why take our freedoms? ...Most likely because it's killing two birds with one stone - the main goal being to prevent freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

[Great thread loam - S&F]

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 07:21 PM
Last time I saw the inside of our nuclear plants they were still controlled with switches and dials. The PC has been vulnerable from day one and not one person in their right mind would let one control something so important.

Everything important in the military IS NOT HOOKED TO THE NORMAL INTERNET. The U.S. military has their own NET. AT&T has bunkers all over this nation for it and secure communications. Secrets are NOT kept on DOS machines from the 80s hooked up to the Internet sorry. If that were the case then Russia and China would have launched our own nukes against us by now.

As far as the military getting microchips from China installed in some vital machines, Yeah we know that is true and whoever did that should be shot.

I know how to fix the hacking problem. Dis-connect Russia, China and everyone else that are not an allies. Lay with dogs long enough and your bound to get fleas.

We invented the PC and we can surely fix this problem.

posted on Feb, 12 2010 @ 09:27 AM
Loam - it seems that the military has its own internet (network), but some(all?) public services and utilities appear to use the public internet. (Dumb.) Which makes them particularly vulnerable to cyber-terrorism and cyber-vandalism.

There is a real and opportunistic campaign to spin the situation into an opportunity to justify full-out Internet controls and regulations. Which would be unconstitutional (re: Free Speech and Freedom of the Press.).

An alternate solution I've heard is to set up several internets (about 4) - I originally understood that idea to describe a tiered and controlled service, but it's starting to make some sense, depending how it translates.

This thread looks at the Google-NSA partnership, and Google's new plan to set up new broadband networks in various communities:
Google's Big Fiber Play: What Gives?.

It seems the Google-NSA partnership might be about finding an alternate solution to full-out controls for the cyber-vandalism problem. What do you think?

- sofi

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