Within three minutes on Aug. 14, 21 power plants in the United States suddenly shut down. Fifty million people – from New York to Canada to Michigan – lost all electric power. It happened in an instant, but the aftereffects lasted for days. More than 400 flights were canceled; major airports shut down; passengers were trapped on subways and in elevators; gas stations closed; and water was in danger of contamination. The familiar lights of New York’s Times Square were extinguished, at least for one night. Some speculated that the cause of the outage was terrorism, but that was quickly ruled out. Still, the specter of how quickly an effective cyberterror attack could cut power across a large stretch of our nation was suddenly a very real and frightening possibility. The August blackout was far from the first time that our nation’s critical infrastructure (electricity grids, banking, water, and transportation systems, and phone lines) was found to be vulnerable to a cyber attack. In March, computer hackers took advantage of a security flaw in Microsoft’s Window 2000 Server to break into a number of U.S. Army computers. In just the past week, the FBI apprehended a high-school senior who law-enforcement officials suspected was behind a modified Internet virus that crippled computer systems worldwide. The Internet worm reportedly affected 7,000 computers. Full Story
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