Stuxnet Sends Ominous Message

Though it targeted Iranian plant, it showed how any large networked system could be threatened

1 min read
Stuxnet Sends Ominous Message

Two months ago the German cybersecurity expert Frank Rieger published a compelling analysis of Stuxnet suggesting it targeted Iranian nuclear facilities, quite possibly the big uranium enrichment complex at Natanz. Two weeks ago the U.S. cybersecurity firm Symantec published an exhaustive analysis that showed beyond any reasonable doubt that Natanz was the main target, though perhaps not the only target. All that is arresting enough. But there's also a larger message, namely that any large networked system--from the smart grid to oil refineries or nuclear reactors--could be vulnerable to malware of similar sophistication.

To quote the summary that concludes the Symantec report: "Stuxnet represents the first of many milestones in malicious code history--it is the first to exploit four operating system vulnerabilities, compromise two digital certificates, and inject code into industrial control systems and hide the code from the operator... Stuxnet has highlighted direct-attack  attempts on critical infrastructure are possible and not just theory or movie possibilities.. . . Stuxnet is the type of threat we hope to never see again."

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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