Could Your Electric Vehicle Be Sabotaged?
In a silent cyberwar, rival nations are already embedded in each other’s power grids
Just as the United States and its companies are pushing to electrify transportation, the nascent industry faces a new threat: In an apparent new form of brinkmanship, leading nations appear to be deliberately unmasking their ability to take down each other’s electric power systems in catastrophic cyberattacks.
In the latest example, a new report implicates China in a cyberattack that knocked out the power to the Indian business capital of Mumbai. On October 12, amid a four- to five-day attack on infrastructure across India, the power went out for up to 12 hours in Mumbai, closing down commuter trains, offices, the stock market, and hospitals. Immediately after the attacks, Indian media began to quote anonymous officials blaming China, which they said was retaliating over deadly skirmishes on their shared border. Now, the report, released Sunday by the Massachusetts cyber research firm Recorded Future, validates some of the suspicions of China’s role without stating flatly that Beijing carried it out.
It’s an example of what’s going on globally: Russia is already embedded in the U.S. grid, and the U.S. is perched within Russia’s. North Korea is also in the U.S. electric system. Iran has been trying to be, and China may be as well. Law enforcement agencies also worry about threats to the U.S. grid by right-wing groups and militants around the world.
All appear to have one idea in mind: To be prepared to inflict the Stone Age on their foes should the right provocation arrive. Short of that, their message is “don’t push me around too much—or else.”
“We are all familiar with normal war, like World War II and the Cold War. We are now entering a new phase: soft, cold cyberwar,” says Stuart Madnick, a professor and cybersecurity expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is all a kind of prodding. It’s like, ‘See what we can do? Imagine what we could do if we were serious.’ They have all tried to keep it not so severe as to [not] prompt the victim to retaliate in a massive way.”