Cybersecurity has been at the forefront of the news for several years. Coverage of the space usually focuses on a breach at a consumer-facing company, resulting in people’s credit cards, bank and personal records being stolen. As bad as these kinds of incidents are, however, we have thus far avoided cybersecurity threats that pose far larger and scarier problems. It’s cyber attacks on the energy space, not the consumer credit space, that could cripple the United States — or any country — as well as bring about a collapse of order and society that most of us associate with apocalyptical scenarios.
Hollywood has picked up on this theme, producing a film earlier this year, Blackhat, which Wired called “the best hacker movie ever made.” The movie’s premise centers on the meltdown of a Hong Kong nuclear plant as a result of targeting by hackers. It takes much of its inspiration from Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm that the United States used to destroy a fifth of Iran’s uranium-enriching centrifuges. But the threat currently facing the world isn’t one dreamed up by Hollywood; it’s real. A congressional commission estimated that a large-scale blackout, if prolonged, could lead to 90% of the United States’ population perishing from disease, lack of food and general societal breakdown.