Thursday, April 09, 2009
Spies hacked into the U.S. electric grid and left behind computer programs that would let them disrupt service, exposing potentially catastrophic vulnerabilities in key pieces of national infrastructure, a former U.S. government official said Wednesday.
The intrusions were discovered after electric companies gave the government permission to audit their systems, the ex-official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
"The vulnerability may be bigger than we think," the official said, adding that the level of sophistication necessary to pull off such intrusions is so high that it is "almost without a doubt" done by state sponsors.
The Wall Street Journal, which reported the intrusions earlier, said officials believe the spies have not yet sought to damage the nation's electric grid, but that they likely would try in a war or another crisis.
Chinese and Russian officials have denied involvement in hacks on U.S. systems.