Posted September 17, 2014 by

The Impact of Industrial Cyber Attacks Affect Everyone

Silhouette of a hacker uses a command on graphic user interface

Silhouette of a hacker uses a command on graphic user interface. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Most people are taking steps to protect their private information. They are careful about who they provide their information to and they make sure that they follow basic rules of safety when they are using their computers. Hackers are still going to try to steal private information in any way they can, but they are having to work harder to do it.

It is a good thing that there is software to protect individual’s computers such as the Immunet antivirus software. It is one of the main lines of defense that individuals have for their computers. The thing that is very important to realize is just how much computers are being used in the world today. They are not just being used to help students with homework or to allow bored housewives to go shopping from the comfort of their couch. They are being used by businesses as well. The computers in use at businesses also are performing many things that people may or may not be aware of. They are used by many things other than the office workers of a business. They are also being used to control the industrial operations of many businesses.

Most people do not think about the computers that are used in industrial settings. They do not usually see them or even realize what the computers are doing. That should lead people to wonder what would happen if there was a cyber-attack on an industrial computer. Would they be safe?

A Cyber Attack Scenario

When people turn on their water faucet at home, they expect to get drinking water that is safe. They do not realize that the water treatment plants used to purify the drinking water are controlled by computers. Imagine what can happen if a computer hacker gained control of the computers at the local water treatment facility. Instead of providing safe drinking water the water plant may produce a liquid that could cause serious harm to millions. The damage could happen before anyone knows it and the impact could be widespread. Fixing the problems that are caused in this scenario could require a lot of time and money. It is not something that is easy to do. The worst part is that the people who are impacted by this attack would not have had much control over it.

Is this a real threat?

One of the biggest dangers of a cyber-attack on an industrial setting is that most people do not think it is a danger. They will assume that if they are smart enough to use antivirus software like AVG or Immunet on their home computer, then the big industrial companies that rely on computers to do their work will have a protection that is much better.

The reality is that many industries do not even have the simple Immunet protection for their computers. They are not only targets, they are easy targets. Consider these reports of cyber-attacks on industrial computers.

  • 2012 – Hackers got into the computers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This facility had control over 23 spacecraft.
  • Oil Companies – They have reported an increase on attacks to their computers in recent times.
  • December to May, 2012 – Oil pipeline operators were targeted by hackers.
  • August 2012 – 300,000 computers on Saudi Aramco were wiped out.

According to ICS-Cert there were more than 20,000 attacks on industrial computers in the last 6 months of 2012. That represented a 400% increase in vulnerability in just a years’ time. The problem is not just limited to the computers being used by different industries. There have also been problems related to the increased use of smartphones and mobile computer devices. These are also very vulnerable to attack.

Another Danger

The cloud is being used to store more information and people expect it to be securely stored. That is not the case. Hackers have recently been gaining access to the images that people stored in the cloud and starting publishing nude pictures of celebrities. They got them by hacking into the cloud. Fake cellphone towers are being found around the United States. These towers are being used to monitor the transmissions. What is particularly dangerous about this is that many of the towers were found located near military bases. Who knows what kind of information can be found out by the hackers that put these towers into place.

It is not a good idea to underestimate the importance of the rise of cyber-attacks on industrial computers. They can cause harm to large groups of people if they are successful and many individuals may think they do not have any control over it. While most industrial computers are using safeguards to protect them not everyone is doing this. It is up to the public to make sure that companies start to take computer security as much as the individuals do.

Author bio:

John is a senior business analyst currently residing in NYC. He has been helping business owners plan their strategy for success since 2005. He can be reached on GooglePlus.

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