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Cyberwar: A Las Vegas Scenario

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(Photo- SamStone KXNT) Cyberwarfare would target critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, municipal water and fuel delivery systems, hospitals, airports, and highways.

(Photo- SamStone KXNT) Cyberwarfare would target critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, municipal water and fuel delivery systems, hospitals, airports, and highways.

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(LAS VEGAS CBS KXNT) As a congressional panel heard warnings on Thursday that Iran is recruiting a cyberarmy, perhaps with the United States in its sights, Nevada’s Homeland Security Commision adopted a plan that defunds some security programs here.

The reduction, reported by the Nevada News Bureau, is based on a 6.5 million dollar cut in federal funding to the state.

Nevada public safety officials were influential as the nation’s Homeland Security architecture developed after September 11, in part because the Las Vegas Strip is a conceivable terrorist target.

Anatomy of an Attack Against the Las Vegas Water System

Members of the Nevada Technogical Crimes Advisory Board were briefed last fall on critical infrastructure attacks, with a description of a hypothetical attack against the Las Vegas water delivery system.

Water delivery and the power grid run on industrial control systems that trigger pumps or switchers automatically.  As the science of cybercrime has matured, malware has been refined so that it is capable of targeting and shutting down specific functions, or damaging specific equipment within those systems.

The resulting failure could be merely inconvenient, or has the potential to be catastrophic, said Nevada security consultant James Elste, who presented the scenario. Even a 20 percent loss of water delivery during the southern Nevada summer months might “make (Hurricane) Katrina look like a picnic,” Elste told KXNT in a phone interview.

Recovery could  be painfully  slow because back-up parts are not readily available.

“These components are not sitting around in a warehouse somewhere,” Elste said.  They could take weeks, or even months to be replaced.

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