U.S. officials fearful over potential ‘Anonymous’ cyberattacks

The notorious “hactivist” group “Anonymous Operations” has the National Security Agency on edge, with the Agency’s director warning of the group’s dangerous growth. General Keith Alexander has warned that within a year or two, the group could have the ability to create a “limited power outage” through a cyberattack, reports the Wall Street Journal. General Alexander provided his assessment during a private meetings at the White House and has previously warned about the emerging ability of cyberattackers to disable or even damage computer networks. The warning highlights a growing federal concern over Anonymous’s activities, however cybersecurity experts have a different opinion on the potential threat posed by the group. Read on for more.

Some federal officials believe that Anonymous could be heading down a more disruptive path, even though it has never listed a power blackout as a goal. Recently, Anonymous announced Operation Global Blackout, an initiative to shut down the Internet (most likely through mass DDoS attacks), set for March 31st.

Grid officials have said that their systems face attacks on a regular basis, and they have spent a tremendous amount of resources to repel potential threats. “The industry is engaged and stepping up widely to respond to emerging cyber threats,” said one electric-industry official to The Journal. “There is a recognition that there are groups out there like Anonymous, and we are concerned, as are other sectors.”

Another industry official noted that power grids have a number of backup systems to restore power shortly after a catastrophic event or cyberattack, however. Officials say that Anonymous doesn’t yet have the resources to pull off such an attack, but if the group’s members around the world developed or acquired it, an attack on the power grid would become far more likely.

“It’s a real threat,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist who is currently researching the group. “You want to occupy Wall Street? How about turn Wall Street off? Even for a day.” Due to these reasons, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the administration “has made cybersecurity a top priority, and we are working tirelessly to protect ourselves from the threats we face, whether they come from other nations, cyber criminals, or from stateless activist hacker groups.”

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