(CNN) – An electrical generator’s motor self-destructs, triggered by a cyber attack. This was a U.S. Government exercise, but what happened recently to an American public utility was real.
Hackers successfully breached a utility’s computer network. The Department of Homeland Security won’t identify the company or the type of utility, but experts say it could have been a water-treatment plant, a gas pipeline, or a power station.
An official tells CNN the Department of Homeland Security worked with the company to repel the hack, and no operations were disrupted.
Officials won’t say who they think the hackers were, but its the type of threat that can wreak havoc on a country. Last year, a power substation in silicon valley was targeted, but not by hackers. Snipers blasted away at that facility, and they still haven’t been caught.
Security expert Frank Cilluffo says America’s enemies have mapped its infrastructure for cyber-attack. Rival governments have that capability, and terrorists can develop it, with some help.
“My biggest concern is actually an insider threat: someone who works for a particular company and then can share information with those on the outside to get more precise in their targeting.”
Cilluffo says the government can’t stop all these attacks, but it can give private companies intelligence to help fend them off.
Homeland security officials say last year, they responded to 256 ‘cyber-incident’ reports, more than half of them in the energy sector.