Report: Cyber Threats to US Energy Sector Happening at ‘Alarming Rate’

Internet-based attacks on critical U.S. energy infrastructure are occurring at a greater rate than previously understood, according to a new government report. The report, issued by a cyber security team that operates within the Department of Homeland Security, found that thousands of control systems used in critical infrastructure are linked directly to the Internet and are vulnerable to attack by viruses and other malware. In the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2012, companies reported 198 cyber incidents to the DHS’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, more than 40% of which were directed against companies operating in the energy sector. The team “has been tracking threats and responding to intrusions into infrastructure such as oil and natural gas pipelines and electric power organizations at an alarming rate,” according to the report.The report detailed a number of recent discoveries of malicious software in control systems, including one at an electric utility and another at a power generation facility, both of which were infected by USB devices. Like many organizations, these energy companies believed they had effectively quarantined the networks controlling production facilities from their business IT networks.

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