Lights Out At The Superdome
When the lights went out during the Super Bowl, I immediately thought of the plots from Black Sunday, The Sum of All Fears, and The Dark Knight Rises where terrorists target the game for a nuclear attack. Similar blackouts have occurred at other football games, so while the thought of a cyber attack shutting down the lights was unlikely, it was a possibility.
An abnormality in the power system reportedly triggered the automatic shutdown that lasted over 20 minutes and forced backup systems to kick in. The FBI ruled that this was not a terrorism attack.
But what if someone with malicious intent had wanted to shutdown the lights – would they have been able to?
We’ve certainly seen an increase of serious attacks against organizations including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and, most recently The Department of Energy (DOE). While no sensitive DOE information was compromised, the attack shows that critical government departments are vulnerable to cyber-terrorism.
Cyber Attacks Point to Serious Security Vulnerabilities
It’s important to understand the vulnerabilities of cybersecurity and the capabilities of sophisticated hackers. Great damage could be done if someone with malicious intent accesses our nuclear power plants, banking, waterpower or electrical grid.
The US Government is beginning to recognize the severity of cyber attacks. But years of poor security can’t be fixed overnight. We need to become more serious about protecting the critical infrastructure of our country with preventative measures.
The DOE sent employees a letter after its breach stating, “Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility.” That shared responsibility applies beyond government employees. The public and private sectors need to collaborate towards mutually beneficial efforts. They need to attract a cybersecurity force and prepare for the future of warfare before we see sophisticated cyber attacks against our nuclear power plants, banking and just maybe the Superbowl lights.