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US Electricity Grid Continues to Face Cyber Threats

The security of US power plants, refineries and the whole electricity grid is at risk as they increasingly face hackers' attacks giving way to economic chaos and major disruptions, according to investigators.

Although the government and private industry are giving attention to cyber security, but according to the GAO (Government Accountability Office), cyber attacks today are more threatening to the systems controlling these critical facilities than it used to be.

Several key systems have suffered infiltration such as in the hacking incident in 2003, when the computer worm 'Sobig' stopped the East Coast trains temporarily. Another incident occurred when hackers crawled into the traffic computers in Los Angeles causing congestion at important intersections in 2006. Further more, an offshore attacker infiltrated control systems of the water plant at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and an excessive computer maneuvering shut two pumps down at a nuclear plant in Alabama. In all these cases, the breakdowns were primarily due to too much Internet activity and access to links on the systems, as reported by Bob Orr, the Correspondent for CBS News. The CBSNews published this on October 17, 2007.

GAO's Information Security Director, Greg Wilshusen, told a subcommittee of House Homeland Security on October 17, 2007 about the government's strategic improvement measures for the security of power stations, refineries, power lines, and nuclear plants. TheAssociatedPress published this on October 18, 2007. But Wilshusen said still there are rooms to coordinate different activities across the private sector and federal agencies.

Several lawmakers together with GAO said that the Homeland Security Department needed to do more to spread the message calling for adequate measures for threat information and cyber security.

The online risk to these infrastructures is growing, so, the administration needs to identify and prioritize the related problems fast to ensure safety in future, said the Subcommittee Chairman for emerging threats, technology and science, and cyber security Rep., James Langevin. TheAssociatedPress published this on October 18, 2007.

According to a September 2007 report, a flaw in the control system of the power grid that could physically damage the equipment, has regained attention from some quarters to fix it.

Related article: US Passes Baton to Asia in Spam Relay

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