The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has launched Perfect Citizen, a program to find security vulnerabilities in the computerized systems that control utilities. The research could be used to defend the U.S. against cyberattacks or to disrupt the infrastructure of other nations. Perfect Citizen conducts vulnerability exploration and research against the computerized controllers that operate large-scale utilities, including power grids and natural gas pipelines, according to recently released documents.
U.S. officials for years have warned about the vulnerability of the electrical grid to cyberattacks. "I know what we [the U.S.] can do and therefore I am extraordinarily concerned about the cybercapabilities of other nations," says chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. The Perfect Citizen program focuses on sensitive control systems (SCS), which automate infrastructure processes.
NSA's surveillance of SCS relies on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyberattack, according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article. "Sabotage or disruption of these industries can have wide-ranging negative effects including loss of life, economic damage, property destruction, or environmental pollution," according to a recent NSA report.
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