Various nuclear plants and energy providers like Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Burlington, Kansas, have recently been the targets of a hacking attempt, according to a joint report from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI last week.
The effort to breach the computer systems of these nuclear plants was followed immediately by an urgent amber warning, which is the second-highest rating for a threat like this. While the Department of Homeland Security has not released the names of the other facilities that were targeted, the department said that the attempted hacking does not pose a threat to the public.
The Nuclear Energy Institute has stated that the nuclear reactors weren’t affected at all by the hacking, but even so, the potential disaster that could have unfolded is terrifying to think about in and of itself. Had these hackers — whether they were operating from within the country or abroad — successfully gained control over the facility’s nuclear reactors, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people could have been severely injured or killed.
No one knows if or when World War III will occur, but if it does, cyber warfare will no doubt play a significant role. If a foreign or domestic enemy that seeks the destruction of the United States hacks into our governmental departments and agencies, the results could be anything from the release of top-secret information to the hijacking of our nuclear stockpile (RELATED: As war with North Korea approaches, the Pentagon scrambles to protect the U.S. from a cyber attack).
But as it turns out, the world may not have to wait until World War III to witness the devastating effects of cyber warfare. Last month in Ukraine’s capital city Kiev, ATM machines failed, preventing people from withdrawing money out of their bank accounts. Eighty miles away at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, workers were forced to abandon their failing computers and monitor radiation levels manually. As it turns out, several different tech companies around the world were also experiencing technical difficulties, including the Danish shipping company Maersk, the American drug company Merck, and even a Cadbury chocolate factory located in Australia.
It is still unclear who was responsible for the cyber attack, but many people believe that whoever did it intended to strike on the 21st anniversary of Ukraine’s first Constitution after gaining its independence from the Soviet Union. Although this cyber attack was fairly severe with regards to the number of companies that were affected, it is only the latest in a series of attacks since a group called the Shadow Brokers stole dozens of hacking tools from the NSA back in April of this year.
Needless to say, cyber warfare is starting to become a very serious concern not just for the United States, but also for most other countries around the world. Thankfully, President Trump seems to be taking action to prevent such a cyber attack from ever occurring in the first place.
In an effort to increase American’s cyber capabilities, the Trump administration is currently attempting to make U.S. cyber command its own independent organization. The Associated Press reported just days ago that “under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence focused National Security Agency.” The AP added that the goal of this move “is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world – a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.”
The AP noted that although the details are still being worked out, “officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks.”