U.S. intelligence agencies confirm that the U.S. electrical grid has been penetrated by cyberattacks from both China and Russia, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The rationale for the attacks, intelligence officials told WSJ, seem to be to map out the electrical grid and critical infrastructure more generally. Nuclear, water, sewage, and financial infrastructures are also at risk.
The attackers left behind software programs, that if activated, could disrupt the system. "If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on," a senior intelligence official told WSJ.
While spokesman from the embassies of China and Russia deny any government involvement, WSJ reports all roads lead to these two countries.
The sophistication of the U.S. intrusions -- which extend beyond electric to other key infrastructure systems -- suggests that China and Russia are mainly responsible, according to intelligence officials and cybersecurity specialists. While terrorist groups could develop the ability to penetrate U.S. infrastructure, they don't appear to have yet mounted attacks, these officials say.
It is nearly impossible to know whether or not an attack is government-sponsored because of the difficulty in tracking true identities in cyberspace. U.S. officials said investigators have followed electronic trails of stolen data to China and Russia.
The Obama administration has made cybersecurity one of its top priorities.The administration will soon release its 60-day review of the federal government's cyberdefenses while WSJ reports the administration is weighing billions more in government money to protect private IT networks. Last year, Congress approved $17 billion in funds requested by then President Bush to protect government networks.
Last week, Democrats in the Senate proposed cybersecurity legislation that would develop cybersecurity standards for the private sector as well as create a cyberczar, who reports directly to the president, with the power to shut down both public and private networks during a cyberattack.