Timeline: Critical infrastructure attacks increase steadily in past decade
A look back at noteworthy cyberattacks on utilities, ports, pipelines and more throughout the years
Siberian pipeline sabotage: The CIA places deliberate flaws in control system plans stolen by Russia. Allegedly flaws in the stolen software led to a massive pipeline explosion in June 1982.
Source: The Telegraph
Salt River Project computer network hack: While accessing billing information, an employee gains access to the utility's mission-critical systems, including those that handle water and power monitoring and delivery, as well as financial and customer and personal information. Log-in and password files, computer system log files and "root" privileges were taken and/or altered.
Source: Idaho National Laboratory
Port of Houston system crash: By bombarding its computer system with thousands of electronic messages, British hacker Aaron Caffrey crashes the system that helps ships navigate the harbor in the Port of Houston, one of the largest U.S. ports.
Source: BBC News
The Slammer Worm: The worm infects at least 120,000 computers, causing network outages and disrupting flights, elections, ATMs, 9-1-1 emergency services and a nuclear monitoring system at the Davis-Besse Ohio Nuclear Power Plant.
Titan Rain: A series of computer attacks originally launched against a variety of U.S. military computer systems in 2003 go undetected until the following year. Thought to have originated in China, the hacks didn't breach classified systems, but sensitive files were copied.
Sabotage of California's Tehama Colusa Canal Authority: A former employee of a small California canal system installs unauthorized software and damages a computer used to divert water from the Sacramento River.
Operation Aurora: A persistent and sophisticated cyberspying operation attempts to siphon intellectual property from major corporations, including Google, Intel, Symantec and Adobe.
Spies breach electricity grid in U.S.: According to current and former national security officials, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, cyberspies from China, Russia and other countries penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Stuxnet: The Stuxnet worm temporarily knocks out some of the centrifuges at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, causing considerable delay to that country's uranium enrichment program. In June 2012, The New York Times reports that the U.S. and Israel developed the worm.
The Nitro Attacks: A series of targeted attacks using an off-the-shelf Trojan horse called "Poison Ivy" is directed mainly at companies involved in the research, development and manufacture of chemicals and advanced materials. After tricking targeted users into downloading Poison Ivy, the attackers issue instructions to the compromised computers, troll for higher-level passwords and eventually offload the stolen content to hacker-controlled systems.
Duqu Trojan: A remote-access Trojan (RAT) designed to steal data from computers it infects targets vendors of industrial control systems.
Shamoon malware: A destructive Trojan horse, which steals data and then wipes files, is allegedly used in an attack that disabled thousands of computers at Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia.
Flame: This highly sophisticated malware is believed to be responsible for data loss incidents at Iran's oil ministry. It was allegedly developed by the U.S. and Israeli governments to collect intelligence about Iran's computer networks that would facilitate future cyberattacks on computers used in that country's nuclear fuel enrichment program.
Cyberattacks on natural gas pipeline companies: The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issues an alert to warn of ongoing cyberattacks against the computer networks of U.S. natural gas pipeline companies. The ICS-CERT alert states that the campaign involves narrowly focused spear-phishing scams targeting employees of the pipeline companies.
Attacks on utilities systems: ICS-CERT issues an alert advising utilities to monitor Internet-facing control systems for activity by hackers attempting to gain remote access to control systems through brute force authentication attacks. The attackers attempted to obtain a user's log-on credentials by guessing usernames and passwords.
DDoS attacks on U.S. banks: The U.S. accuses Iran of staging a wave of denial-of-service attacks against U.S. financial institutions. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns of potential for a "cyber Pearl Harbor" against critical infrastructure and calls for new protection standards.
Source: The New York Times
Research compiled by Mari Keefe, Computerworld editorial project manager.
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