Destruction Over the Net

A top US Cyber Command officer sees “a disturbing trend”—movement toward destruction of physical assets via cyberspace attack. Maj. Gen. David Senty, CYBERCOM’s chief of staff, told a conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., that such attacks could “wreak havoc with our infrastructure.” There is no question it can happen. “The damage of such an attack was demonstrated—by accident—in Siberia in 2009,” said Senty, noting that “remote operators,” using a cyber network, attempted to start up a turbine at Russia’s huge Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam. According to Senty, “bad keystrokes” led to the flooding of a power station, which caused great damage and killed dozens of workers. Cyber foes had already moved from mere exploitation of computer databases to disruptive activities; in Georgia and Estonia, pro-Russian hackers “impeded the physical movement of troops . . . in what we could call a synchronization of cyber and physical aggression,” he explained. Further movement from disruption to destruction could bring “serious danger” to our financial systems, power grids, and transportation networks, said Senty.