UPDATED: U.S. electrical grid falls victim to cyber-spying

Washington (DC) – It’s being reported that the U.S. electrical grid has been infiltrated by hackers primarily from China, Russia, but also from other countries. The software does not do anything harmful, however it is giving remote entities knowledge of how our electrical grid operates, allowing them to “navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls”, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is cyber-spying, and it has targeted a critical U.S. asset — our electrical grid.

The Wall Street Journal was told by an unnamed senior intelligence official, “The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid. So have the Russians. There are intrusions, and they are growing. There were a lot last year.”

Authorities investigating the infiltration have identified the software left behind by hackers. It has been reported to have the potential of destroying infrastructure components, according to the unnamed senior intelligence official. He went on to say, “If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on.”

While no damage has yet been seen, the information gathering infiltration may suggest there are other U.S. assets currently under attack as well, though presently unknown.

From my perspective, I just can’t help but wonder how hard it would be to run some kind of daily scan on every computer on the electrical grid to identify software that’s not supposed to be there. A simple USB flash drive with known CRC-32 data for every executable, for example, not just of disk files and static data files, but also static (code) portions of applications running in active memory. These basic measures would seem to be appropriate for such an essential asset.

See the original Reuters report republished on Yahoo News.

UPDATED:  April 9, 2009 – 1:38pm CDT
The Chinese have officially responded to the original story appearing on The Wall Street Journal, denying they are behind the cyber-spy attacks. A China spokeswoman, Jiang Yu , said “The intrusion doesn’t exist at all. We hope that the concerned media will prudently deal with some groundless remarks, especially those concerning accusations against China. I have also noticed that the U.S. White House had denied the media reports.”