If this doesn’t demonstrate how susceptible our national computer networks and infrastructure are to rogue threats and state sponsored cyber warfare, than we don’t know what does:
Chinese hackers gained ‘full access’ to the computer network in one of Nasa’s key control centres, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
JPL manages 23 spacecraft conducting active space missions, including missions to Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.
The hackers, operating from an internet address in China, gained full system access in November 2011, allowing them to upload hacking tools to steal user IDs and control Nasa systems, as well as copy sensitive files.
‘The intruders had compromised the accounts of the most privileged JPL users, giving the intruders access to most of JPL’s networks,’ said National Aeronautics and Space Administration Inspector General Paul Martin.
Martin said the hackers gained full system access, which allowed them to modify, copy, or delete sensitive files, create new user accounts and upload hacking tools to steal user credentials and compromise other NASA systems.
Source: Daily Mail
While JPL may not directly control access to the military’s surveillance and weapons systems, the networks likely utilize security measures similar to those used by the Pentagon, which means that those systems are just as susceptible as NASA. In recent years the Pentagon has also dealt with widespread, coordinated attacks originating from China, Russia and rogue operatives that have allowed hackers to gain access to highly sensitive materials.
In addition to the obvious threat posed by cyber attacks that compromise space and military defense systems, it is clear that the Chinese especially are working to deliberately sabotage our national security, as was demonstrated recently when the United States Navy detected the existence of some 59,000 computer chips from China that were manufactured with ‘back doors’ which could be used at an opportune time to affect everything from missile guidance systems to tracking of friendlies and enemies on the battlefield.
But cyber attacks aren’t limited to just military systems or NASA. Recent reports suggest the whole of the U.S. computer grid is constantly being tested and exploited.
According to experts in the public and private sectors, there are staggering holes in national infrastructure security. In October of last year major cyber security firms detected a new trojan that was capable of Disrupting Power Plants, Oil Refineries and Other Critical Infrastructure Networks, much like the Stuxnet virus which was used to bypass software warning systems and destroy the physical centrifuges used to enrich uranium in Iran’s nuclear facilities.
General Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, warned that it is exactly these critical network components – Physical Infrastructure, Commerce, Transportation Systems – that will be attacked if the U.S. were ever engaged in military conflict or attacked by cyber terrorists.
Threats posed by cyber-attacks on computer networks and the Internet are escalating from large-scale theft of data and strikes designed to disrupt computer operations to more lethal attacks that destroy entire systems and physical equipment.
Source: Cyber Attacks Will Target Physical Infrastructure, Commerce, Transportation Systems
We don’t have to get into the details of the consequences of such attacks. Suffice it to say that a properly executed attack that includes a takeover of GPS systems and spacecraft, military defense capabilities, and utilities like power and water would be devastating – a literal end of life in America as we know it within one day’s time.
Anti-terror specialist Richard Clark described how quickly our modern day, computer controlled infrastructure could be taken out:
In his warning, Mr Clarke paints a doomsday scenario in which the problems start with the collapse of one of Pentagon’s computer networks.
Soon internet service providers are in meltdown. Reports come in of large refinery fires and explosions in Philadelphia and Houston. Chemical plants malfunction, releasing lethal clouds of chlorine.
Air traffic controllers report several mid-air collisions, while subway trains crash in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. More than 150 cities are suddenly blacked out. Tens of thousands of Americans die in an attack comparable to a nuclear bomb in its devastation.
Yet it would take no more than 15 minutes and involve not a single terrorist or soldier setting foot in the United States.
Source: 900 Seconds: Cyber Attack Wouldn’t Take Long to Bring Down the USA
The Chinese, Russians and others have been systematically dissecting our computer network systems for a decade or longer. There is a high probability that our entire power, water, gas, financial and transportation grids have been mapped in great detail. Moreover, as described above, trojans and backdoors are waiting to be activated when the time is right.
If you wake up one day and your internet isn’t working, cell phones aren’t connecting, grocery stores can’t process credit card transactions and electricity in your area is out or unstable, then the most likely culprit is a large scale cyber attack.
If that day ever comes it will behoove you to have made preparations to help endure the chaos and subsist when the normal flow of food and commerce come to a halt.