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Hacking groups targeting U.S. power plants

We’ve been warning you for quite some time that a major cyberattack is coming. Whether it’s an attack on air traffic control, the stock market, or an undiscovered weakness, you can count on serious confusion and chaos to follow. (Note: Click here to learn about the top three cybersecurity threats to watch out for this year.)

Now, a new scary report has come out about the security of the U.S. energy sector. We could be at the mercy of an international hacking group.

How hackers could take control of U.S. power stations

Researchers from Symantec describe a sophisticated hacking campaign that has been going on for years. The hacking group dubbed Dragonfly has been targeting power stations in the U.S. and Europe since 2011. At least 20 U.S. power stations have been hacked.

The group has been stepping up its attacks recently and are now capable of causing total chaos. Researchers said, “The Dragonfly group appears to be interested in both learning how energy facilities operate and also gaining access to operations systems themselves, to the extent that the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so.”

The newest hacking campaign, Dragonfly 2.0, has been in the works since December 2015 with a spike in activity this year. The attackers are using a number of infection vectors to try and get access to the victim’s network. Mainly phishing emails to steal credentials and infecting systems with malware.

We’ve known for years that America’s infrastructure isn’t as robust as it should be. A recent example of a massive cyberattack is when hackers shut down a number of popular websites like Amazon and Twitter.

These outages were the result of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the domain host company Dyn, which is part of the backbone of the internet. It works essentially as a middleman, directing requests to the right domains.

Be prepared for the next major cyberattack

That’s why you need to be prepared for a major attack. It isn’t just the power grid. Over the past few years, hackers have been ramping up their game by targeting the companies we use every day.

Retailers, hotel chains, restaurants, hospitals and other health care facilities, credit card companies and many other types of businesses are getting hit by hackers. These hackers seek vulnerabilities in the organization’s network and then exploit their customers’ personal information.

Since we’re talking about hackers taking down the power grid and other electronics, the way you protect yourself isn’t actually very high-tech. In fact, you’re going to be better off going low-tech.

Be sure you have an advanced plan set up with family so everyone knows what to do if you can’t communicate. Designate a safe spot for everyone to go as soon as news of this or any disaster hits. Write it down, along with other emergency tips for younger children or grandchildren, or anyone else who needs it.

If cellphones go down, you’ll need a way to communicate. Pack a set of two-way radios or walkie-talkies into your emergency kit and prearrange a primary channel and a backup in case your main channel gets clogged. Make sure everyone in your family, and even friends, know what channels to use.

Of course, you’ll want to stockpile standards like canned food, water, spare batteries and first aid items. Your home emergency kit should be enough to get you through at least 30 days.

These cyberattack threats are scary. You definitely need to take them seriously and be prepared.

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