U.S. government concerned about Anonymous causing blackouts

Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:25pm EST

National Security Agency director General Keith Alexander believes Anonymous could have the power to take town the United States’ electrical grid this year.

The Wall Street Journal’s sources say the director admitted his concern over the hacktivist group at the White House, though he has made no public statement regarding this group in particular. But cyber security is a huge issue for the government as Anonymous continues to “attack for good,” with the expectation of exposing corruption. Anonymous routinely attacks the government on what it calls “F**k FBI Friday,” and recently hacked into a phone call between the FBI and Scotland Yard, where the two agencies were discussing the group itself.

The NSA declined to comment in an e-mail to VentureBeat.

Recently Anonymous’ attacks have seemed to be fairly surface value. Denial of service attacks, which simply attempt to access a website so many times that it overloads, have been behind some of its most high-profile “take-downs” in the last few months. This includes the Department of Justice shortly after the FBI shut down file-sharing company MegaUpload. A similar strategy is currently proposed by the group to shut down the 13 servers that run the Internet.

But the group certainly isn’t limited to DDoS knowledge, and has performed much more intricate attacks in the past. These include the hack on security firm Stratfor where credit card information was compromised. E-mails regarding the Haditha Massacre were leaked from the law firm representing the Marine accused of spearheading the civilian-casualty-riddled mission. Not to mention the slew of website defaces that have hit law enforcement agencies across the country.

An attack on the electrical grid, however, would more likely be blamed on a country with which the U.S. has tensions. China has already been caught hacking into U.S. Department of Defense key cards to gain access information, though it is unknown if the attack was associated with the Chinese government.

Those in charge of the electrical grid, however, told the Journal that they are prepared for attacks, have backup to restore power quickly should an attack occur, and already face regular attacks which they are able to deflect.

But Alexander isn’t concerned about tensioned governments acting on their own behalf, so much as “leaking” knowledge to local cyber criminal groups.

“A near-peer competitor [country] could give cyber malware capability to some fringe group,” Alexander said, according to the Journal. “Some hacker, next thing you know, could be into our electrical grid. We have to get after this.”

We have reached out to the NSA and will update the post upon hearing back.

Electrical grid image via Shutterstock

Filed under: green, security