The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) has expressed concern that hackers aligned with Anonymous could cause a “limited power outage” via a coordinated cyber attack.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. Keith Alexander believes the group is a year or two away from achieving such capabilities.
Anonymous has thus far contented itself with hack and extract operations against corporate and government targets, and has yet to list power blackouts as a goal.
Nevertheless, some federal officials believe cyber activists associated with the group are headed in a more “disruptive” direction.
Indeed, say officials, US electrical infrastructure already faces “regular attacks” that require “tremendous resources” to repel.
“The industry is engaged and stepping up widely to respond to emerging cyber threats,” confirmed one official. ”There is a recognition that there are groups out there like Anonymous, and we are concerned, as are other sectors.”
James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), concurred.
“It’s a real threat,” said Lewis. ”You want to occupy Wall Street? How about turn Wall Street off? Even for a day.”
However, most intelligence officials believe, that for now, a potential cyber threat by Anonymous to the power grid is relatively limited. Still, NSA is quite concerned about other entities like Russia and China attacking the grid, as both countries have apparently already conducted cyberspace surveillance ops within infrastructure networks.
“A near-peer competitor [country] could give cyber malware capability to some fringe group,” warned Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ”Some hacker, next thing you know, could be into our electrical grid. We have to get after this.”