Iranian hackers were able to gain access to control-system software that could allow them to manipulate oil or gas pipelines. Malware have been found in the power grid that could be used to deliver malicious software to damage plants. The targets have included several American oil, gas and electricity companies, which government officials have refused to identify.
The officials stated that the goal of the Iranian attacks is sabotage rather than espionage. Whereas, the cyber-attacks from China however, are more aimed at stealing information from the U.S. government that is confidential, as well as from private business. Mandiant announced that the Chinese government was backing the attacks. However, officials from the government in Beijing vehemently denied any connection to the attacks.
The new attacks, officials said, were devised to destroy data and manipulate the machinery that operates critical control systems, like oil pipelines. Iran has denied being the source of any attacks, adding that it had been a victim of American sabotage.
Tom Cross, director of security research at Lancope, told that industrial control systems such as those used to control oil and gas pipelines are more interconnected with public networks like the Internet than most people realize. “It is also difficult to fix security flaws with these systems because they aren’t designed to be patched and restarted frequently. In the era of state-sponsored computer attack activity, it is not surprising to hear reports of these systems being targeted,” he said.
Government officials also claimed that Iran was the source of a separate continuing campaign of attacks on American financial institutions that began last September and has since taken dozens of American banks intermittently offline, costing millions of dollars. But that attack was a less sophisticated denial of service effort.