Even before the revelation on July 23 that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer systems of US electric utilities and could have caused blackouts, government agencies and electricity industry leaders were working to protect US customers and society as a whole. These developments, alarming as they might seem, are not new.
But they highlight an important distinction of conflict in cyberspace: between probing and attacking.
Various adversaries – including Russia, but also China, North Korea and Iran – have been testing and mapping US industrial systems for years. Yet to date there has been no public acknowledgement of physical damage from a foreign cyberattack on US soil on the scale of Russia shutting off electricity in the Ukrainian capital or Iran attacking a Saudi Arabian government-owned oil company, destroying tens of thousands of computers and allegedly attempting to cause