National security officials say that spies from China, Russia, and other nations have been penetrating the US electrical grid, probing for vulnerabilities and mapping key infrastructure, such as the electrical grid. One former official says the intrusions have been “growing” in recent years.
In recent wars like the brief August conflict between Georgia and Russia, hackers have played an increasing role in attacks on the enemy nation. And while so far those attacks have largely been limited to taking down government websites, more and more attention is being paid to the potential of those attacks escalating to knocking out power supplies, sewage, and financial networks.
One CIA official revealed early last year that hackers had already succeeded and “in at least one case, caused a power outage affecting multiple cities.” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that “a number of nations, including Russia and China, can disrupt elements of the US information infrastructure.”
At the same time, officials say that the threat of such an attack is relatively outside of a potential war. China in particular is hugely dependent of the US economy and holds large amounts of government debt, making any damage to US infrastructure harmful to them as well.