With so much talk about the possible Russian hacking of U.S. voting systems, public awareness is at an all-time high. People are wondering, even fearing, that foreign governments do indeed have the ability to hack into vital U.S. systems and wreak havoc. This new type of warfare is even more threatening than bombs and military aircraft because you rarely see the attacks coming.
Hacking now common
Such was the case in Vermont last year when it was discovered that Russians had hacked into the electrical grid of a major electricity supplier, Burlington Electric. The Obama administration gave the incident the code name, “Grizzly Steppe”. They began investigating at once. The government found a single laptop contaminated at Burlington’s plant. They assured the public that the electrical grid system had not been compromised in any way. Government officials said the laptop was one isolated incident that had been infected with malware.
The governor of Vermont spoke about this utility attack, saying that Americans should be outraged that Russia would hack into our utility systems. Officials at Burlington Electric have stated that all their computer systems now have much more sophisticated protection. The Department of Homeland Security continues to monitor and investigate the possibility of malware attacks upon U.S. utility companies.
Is the US safe from hacking?
Many people have used this event to point out that American utility systems are far too vulnerable to foreign hacking attacks. It’s the newest type of warfare and it’s very insidious. In days past, invaders had to make their way into our country. They had to find ways past all the security checks in order to sabotage a utility company. But today, with the advancement of computers and internet technologies, this is no longer true.
A foreign government can use hackers to get into computer systems of a utility company or any company in fact. Though no one knows the extent of the problems that hackers might cause, it’s troubling to know that some of these important systems might be at risk.
In the past ten years alone, hackers from all over the world have penetrated numerous systems. Americans once thought many organizations were completely secure. In 2014, hackers were able to penetrate the government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM). They gained access to the personal information of over 21 million government employees. This hack included sensitive info like social security numbers and fingerprints. These attacks were thought to be instigated by hackers from China but no one was ever charged in this massive data breach.
No company safe from hackers
JP Morgan Chase, a leading financial institution, also reported a huge data breach in 2014. This one exposed the sensitive information of 76 million individuals and 7 million businesses. The latest data breach occurred in 2017 when Equifax revealed that over 140 million people may have been affected by hacking.
The public has been very concerned that no one’s personal information is completely safe anymore. In many cases, organizations have been slow to reveal that their systems were compromised. They try to minimize the damage, not revealing the exact number of affected consumers. This slows efforts to get control of the situation.
Each data breach is a worrisome reminder that American utility companies could be at risk. Though authorities and individual companies pledge to make their computer systems more secure, it has become commonplace to hear of massive data breaches. The personal information of American consumers is constantly compromised.
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