The next World War will likely be fought at least in part over the Internet. State-sponsored hackers are working on plans to attack the United States' power grid, leaving millions of people vulnerable to the elements, and the economy vulnerable to ruin.
This isn't hyperbole. It's already happening. Iranian hackers accessed a dam just 20 miles from New York City, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Plus, a cybersecurity researcher accidentally stumbled into a hack by Iran that suggests the country could bring down the U.S. power grid.
Iranians hackers have stolen passwords and engineers' drawings of power grids around the country. One of these drawings was titled "Mission Critical."
This hack involved Capline Corp., which has 82 power plants in the United States and Canada. While Iran was behind this hack, it's believed that Russian and Chinese hackers have also hacked U.S. energy company systems. More frightening, the terrorist group ISIS is likely also trying to hack the power grid, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
These hackers gained enough access to the power grid that they could have infected it with malware, and cut the electricity for millions of Americans. This time of year, with frigid temperatures, that could've been deadly for countless people.
These hacks are not the work of novice hackers. Power grids are incredibly complex systems that can be broken into only by the most sophisticated hackers.
Frighteningly, as it turns out, this type of hack isn't uncommon. In fact, hackers have gotten into power grids at least a dozen times in the past 12 years, according to the Associated Press.
Just last year, the Department of Homeland Security said that hackers, likely state-sponsored Russian spies, had injected malware into U.S. energy companies systems. This allowed them to spy on these energy companies.
If you feel like you haven't heard much about power grid hacks, you haven't. That's due in large part to the government keeping these potentially deadly hacks from gaining too much attention. Worse, sometimes these power grid hacks are not reported to the government.
These hacks have so far not caused huge blackouts. However, cyberwarfare experts say Iran and other countries may simply be training for such an attack.
"If the geopolitical situation changes and Iran wants to target these facilities, if they have this kind of information it will make it a lot easier [to attack the U.S.]," former U.S. Air Force cyberwarfare operations officer, Robert M. Lee, told Stars & Stripes. "It will also help them stay quiet and stealthy inside."
The only good news here is that the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledge the threat of cyberwarfare attacks on the U.S. power grid, and that it's strengthening its cybersecurity efforts. That's small comfort, when you think about how many people would be adversely affected by a sweeping blackout.
What do you think about these cyberwarfare threats? Is the U.S. well protected? Let us know in comments.