The proliferation of Stuxnet adds a new threat to the world stage. During the cold war, the Governments of East vs. West kept each other at bay with a nuclear race that promised a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) for any nation launching the first strike. Because of cold war propaganda, the worst fear for many people is the idea of a nuclear or electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that takes out a country’s infrastructure or worse. Today, a greater threat exists then even nuclear annihilation. It's the modern equivalent of the cold war’s MAD. It is Cyber-MAD, and there's no way of stopping it.
If or when there is a WWIII, it may very well begin with a Stuxnet attack on our power grid and infrastructure. When Stuxnet was released into the wild, it accidentally targeted and crippled critical infrastructure and industrial controls systems worldwide. In the consumer electronics world, it is the killer app. Everything in the modern world—kitchen appliances, ATMs, e-mail, home automation systems, electric grids, water infrastructure, oil and gas controls, communications and transportation systems—are all managed by industrial control systems.
For his book Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, author Ted Koppel interviewed the nation’s top security experts. Koppel concluded:
Top intelligence experts believe the Russians, Chinese, and Iranians are already “inside the (U.S.) grid” with their versions of Stuxnet, and the only thing keeping them from destroying our systems is that the U.S. has cyberweapons in those nations’ industrial control systems, too.
Koppel further asserts that the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure. It would create a blackout that lasts for weeks or months. Tens of millions of people across the United States are affected.
Without access to a generator and the fuel to run it, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. No fuel because pumps don’t work. Food and medical supplies dwindle. The consumer electronic devices we rely on are dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread. The rule of law and order are challenged and stretched as never before.
Martial law is imposed. The military directly controls the normal civilian functions of government. And the best the current Secretary of Homeland Security can suggest is keeping a battery-powered radio. One can only wonder what we’ll be listening to if the radio stations are off the air because there’s no power for their transmitters.
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