Cyber Attack On Utilities Could Be A 'Katrina-Like Disaster Affecting Cities For Days, Months'

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Hurricane Katrina

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The possibility of a cyber attack on U.S. infrastructure is a bigger risk than ever, as utility companies report  a record amount  of  vulnerability probing  from outside sources in recent months, according to Bloomberg.

The attack on critical infrastructure could be as bad as Katrina, experts say.

Risk assessment professional Robert Bea warns of a cascading effect:  “Should one piece of a system fail, you end up with these cascades, sort of like a game of dominos,” he says in an interview with Global Post's Jeb Boone .

Bea says the result could look like a really bad hurricane:

“The best reference for me will be Hurricane Katrina and the flood protection system for the Greater New Orleans Area ... Katrina caused a cascade of infrastructure failures that affected the city for months, years. Some are still not working properly,” Robert Bea, risk assessment expert and professor at the University of California at Berkley  said.

Just like Katrinathe warnings were there long before the disaster occurred.

The likeliest target might just be the financial hub of the U.S. in the northeast — which would not only cripple finances, but shroud the eastern seaboard in darkness for upward of months.

Disaster expert Dr. Scott Knowles of Drexel told Business Insider the scenario of a long-term grid outage in the Northeast " could precipitate a mass-movement of people to places where power can be provided--at least among those with the financial resources to leave (think Katrina but with a blackout, not a flood)."

Detractors of such talk say the government is merely pushing for privacy violating legislation like CISPA, a cyber security information sharing initiative that pairs private communications companies with government agencies. Though CISPA might help with corporate espionage, it isn't wholly necessary in the realm of vulnerable utilities.

There's a few simple solutions, which the Global Post outlined. In short, they involve r ewording passwords. Teaching employees not to click on Nigerian jackpot emails. Making like Marissa Mayer by ending the practice of working remotely (taking networks off the web).

These actions would go a long way to prevent a cyber Katrina.



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