Cyber Attacks Essay

3093 words - 13 pages

Cyber Attacks on the Government’s Transportation Grid

Breaches and Security Implications by Penetration of the Western Interconnection’s 

Traffic Control System and its Effects on Modern Day Life 

Year after year, a number of films are released involving computer hacking of some sort along with cyber-villainy. As entertaining as they are, the validity of these possibilities is not explored. Many of these films center revolve around a chaotic vehicle-related scene where a form of the government’s transportation grid is compromised. The breach typically involves traffic control. As the stoplights and streetlights are in a state known as gridlock, external hackers usually make the ...view middle of the document...

This, as well as a couple of other similar projects, 
is currently working to shape a sustainable alternate energy management system by tracking the 
electricity use as well as controlling a healthy amount of renewable energy consumption for the 
future (BioCycle). 

The Western Interconnection powers a number of everyday critical utilities without 
which modern industrialization and technological innovation cannot flourish. The main systems 
include natural gas pipelines, electricity to power entire cities, ground traffic control, and the 
stock market. An organization known as the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) 
is in charge of anything and everything to do with the Western Interconnection. This includes the 
states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, 
Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Texas. The Western Interconnection is connected to 
the Eastern Interconnection via six direct current transmission facilities. The WECC has offices 
in the following cities: Salt Lake, Utah; Vancouver, Washington; and Loveland, Colorado. The 
North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) employs eight other branches of 
electric reliability councils (NERC). 

Currently, the level of security regarding the Western Interconnection networks is 
depleting, as in it is becoming ever more susceptible to external hackers. The vulnerable nature 
of all the United States electric power grids brought the attention of the White House a couple 
years ago. The potential of these cyber-attacks on this vital infrastructure has led to a suspicion 
of Chinese hackers behind the job. At the time, it was assumed that the U.S. Congress and 

government regulators would pressure all the electric utilities to increase security ten-fold and be 
ready to evade all computer intrusions. A single breach would inevitably lead to chaos striking 
the entire nation. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed concerns about 
the power grid’s high vulnerability to “potentially disabling computer attacks.” “The 
vulnerability is something that the Department of Homeland Security and the energy sector have 
known about for years,” she said. “We acknowledge that ... in this world, in an increasingly 
cyber world, these are increasing risks” (Holland, Mikkelsen). Apparently, what remained 
hidden to the public at the time, which was revealed soon after by the Wall Street Journal, was 
that cyber-spies had in fact already broken the electrical grid systems and planted bugged 
programs that could potentially disrupt all the grid’s operations. The White House worried about 
these intruders for quite a while. The amount of power possibly generated for nuclear and other 
uses against the U.S. itself from a breach in the power grids is remarkably high. As a result, the 
penetrators would likely try a large-scale, long-lasting crisis or war, to put it in layman’s terms ...

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