As our cities, our transportation, our energy and manufacturing – our everything – increasingly embrace Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Controls Systems (ICS), securing its underlying cyber-physical systems (CPS) grows ever more crucial. Yet, even among engineers and cyber security specialists, one potential attack trajectory is often overlooked: Intentional Electromagnetic Interference (IEMI).
Making physical objects or systems “smart” is all the rage today. Terms like smart houses, smart cars, smart cities, smart grids, smart refrigerators and even smart hairbrushes pop up everywhere. But there’s something not smart in the way this trend is progressing. Securing smart systems is being often overlooked.
Connecting physical objects and processes to the cyber world offers us capabilities that exponentially exceed the expectations of science fiction writers and futurists of past generations. But it also introduces disquieting possibilities. Those possibilities reach beyond cyberspace to threaten the physical world in which we live and – potentially – our own physical well-being.
Stuxnet was the first true cyber-kinetic weapon, designed to cripple the Iranian – and perhaps also the North Korean – nuclear weapon programs. It succeeded in slowing the Iranian program, although it was discovered before it could deal the program a fatal blow. Its significance goes far beyond what it did. It marks a clear turning point in the military history and in cybersecurity. Its developers hoped for a weapon that could destroy strategic targets without civilian damage possible in traditional warfare. Instead, it opened the door to cyberattacks that can deliver widespread disruption to the very civilian populations it was designed to protect. Stuxnet has, years ago, disappeared from the digital world. Its unintended release beyond its target, though, made its code readily available to other nations, cybercriminals and terrorist groups, providing them with a wealth of advanced techniques to incorporate into their own malicious cyber efforts. Its impact on the future cannot overstated.
(This is the draft second chapter of my upcoming book Cyber-Kinetic Attacks) The fact that cyber-kinetic attacks rarely appear on mainstream news doesn’t mean they don’t happen. They happen more frequently than you would think. Many, for various reasons, aren’t even reported to agencies charged with combatting them. This hinders security experts in understanding the full scope and recognizing the trends in this growing problem. We’ll highlight examples of cyber-kinetic incidents and attacks in this chapter. Some were malfunctions that, nonetheless, demonstrated cyber-physical system vulnerabilities. Some were collateral damage from hacking or computer viruses. The vulnerabilities these exposed inspired a growing number of targeted cyber-kinetic attacks in recent years. If nothing else, the attacks described in this chapter demonstrate that the threat of cyberattacks on critical systems are not hypothetical. They occur increasingly...
(This is the first chapter of my upcoming book Cyber-Kinetic Attacks) We live in a world in which the way we observe and control it is radically changing. Increasingly, we interact with physical objects through the filter of what computational systems embedded in them tell us, and we adjust them based on what those systems relate. We do this on our phones, in our cars, in our homes, in our factories and, increasingly, in our cities. Physical objects are so interconnected that we simply take those connections for granted, as if being able to unlock your car by pushing a button on your key fob, unlocking it with your phone or even by walking toward it is the way car locks always worked. This interconnectedness offers us capabilities that exponentially exceed the expectations of science fiction writers and futurists of past generations. But it also introduces disquieting possibilities. Those possibilities reach beyond cyberspace to threaten the physical world in which we live and – potentially – our own physical well-being.