Are Control Rooms the New Cockpits?

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Speaking of ABC News’ Brian Ross (whom I don’t know personally), he had a chilling report last night on a new terrorist threat identified from the cache of documents and data found in Osama bin Laden’s compound. That prompted the feds to issue a pretty disturbing advisory that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten more attention:

A new terror alert from the Department of Homeland Security…titled Insider Threat to Utilities, warns “violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions,” and that “outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees” for damaging physical and cyber attacks.

“Based on the reliable reporting of previous incidents, we have high confidence in our judgment that insiders and their actions pose a significant threat to the infrastructure and information systems of U.S. facilities,” the bulletin reads in part. “Past events and reporting also provide high confidence in our judgment that insider information on sites, infrastructure, networks, and personnel is valuable to our adversaries and may increase the impact of any attack on the utilities infrastructure.”

The bolded emphasis is mine. That violent extremists are known to have obtained insider positions strikes me as an awfully big deal. Curiously, threats to utilities don’t get nearly the attention that even the slightest hint of danger on an airplane regularly draws. Are you aware, for instance, that a group of armed men breached the control room of a South African nuclear reactor in 2007 and fled only because a plant worker who had been shot nevertheless managed to sound an alarm. (To this day we don’t know what the intruders were after.) If one or more terrorists who knew what they were doing managed to commandeer the control room of a large public utility, especially one involving energy, the results could be catastrophic.