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Experts: Infrastructure 'legitimate Target' in Battle For Cyber Supremacy

By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

February 24, 2015

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The leaders of the U.S. Defense Department, National Security Agency, and Cyber Command have all warned of the potential for a cyber 9/11, a devastating computer attack that disables the power grid, empties bank accounts, and results in loss of life.

"Ultimately, it absolutely could happen," says Summer Fowler, deputy technical director for cybersecurity solutions at CERT, a computer emergency response team located at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute. "That thought keeps me up at night, in terms of what portion of our critical infrastructure could be really brought to its knees."

The U.S., its allies, and its enemies are constantly working to build, arm, and aim online computer attacks that can be initiated at the first provocation of war. "The risk is higher not only because there are more clever adversaries but because there are things that we have done to ourselves," says Nader Mehravari, a senior member of CERT's Cyber Risk Management Team.

One of the biggest risks comes from connecting devices to the Internet that were never supposed to go online, such as control systems and factory monitors, according to CERT Vulnerability Analysis Team technical manager Joji Montelibano. For example, SHINE, a private research project, found more than 2 million industrial control systems connected to the Internet.

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