ELECTRICITY, COMMUNICATIONS, AND MONEY: WHAT COULD A CYBERATTACK ON THE UNITED STATES LOOK LIKE?
The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a bulletin about possible cyber threats from Iran. It said at this time, there's no specific, credible threat in the United States, but it also noted Iran and terror groups have the ability to disrupt critical infrastructure.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a bulletin about possible cyber threats from Iran. It said at this time, there's no specific, credible threat in the United States, but it also noted Iran and terror groups have the ability to disrupt critical infrastructure.
Federal agencies along with state and local partners are defending against any possible attacks. Indiana State University cybersecurity professor William Mackey says Iran has long been a major power in cyber offensive tactics.
He said they've been a known threat to not only the United States but worldwide for quite some time. They shut down Turkey's power grid in 2013 and infiltrated the U.K.'s parliament a couple of years ago. Mackey said what's also concerning is that they are allied closely with Russia
What they lacked for some time was motivation to attack the U.S. in severely disruptive ways. With General Soleimani's assassination, Mackey says Iran targeting us with cyber-attacks becomes more of a reality.
"We could expect that if they were to be able to shut off some of this critical infrastructure, we would temporarily lose, for instance, power or communications," Mackey said, "Gas pumps might shut off, ATM's won't work, things of that nature. It could be pretty disruptive."
Mackey also touched on how prepared the United States is if an attack of this nature were to happen. He says cybersecurity is a well-known problem area in the United States. It's improved significantly in the last few years and we are taking steps to prepare ourselves for any attacks.
The Federal Government is providing all 92 counties in Indiana with funds to protect county governments against cyberattacks. Mackey says Indiana has tried to become a model for the rest of the nation in a lot of cybersecurity areas. He noted the Indiana Executive Council in Cybersecurity as working hard to make our state more secure.
He says it's been well-known by previous intelligence officials that Iran has infiltrated a lot of our critical infrastructure before. Overall, Mackey says we are as prepared as we can be for something like this to happen.
"It's hard to be perfectly prepared because you never know what exactly that attack is going to look like--what kind of measures they might take and how sophisticated it might be," he concluded, "We have come a long way from where we were just a couple years ago in terms of how prepared we are for an attack like that."
Mackey says the length of such an attack or disruption really depends on how complex it is. It could be as short as a few hours, or it could last months depending on its sophistication.