Imagine a cyber security physical attack breach that goes beyond stealing sensitive data—one that gives hackers control over physical objects. One that could lock down a city's water grid, tamper with implanted medical devices or force an autonomous vehicle off the road.
This is not science fiction. Cyber physical attacks are real—and as the Internet of Things expands, they're becoming a bigger threat.
What are cyber physical attacks?
Cyber attacks target computer systems, accessing sensitive data from a targeted computer and then usually either disabling or extracting it. But more and more items in the physical world are connected to computer systems through the internet. Cyber physical attacks target these items, augmenting breaches by directing the hacked thing to perform a deliberate action—with real physical consequences.
The variety of applications is staggering. Attackers could exploit control of a physical asset and ransom it for financial gain. They could hack smart construction equipment, delaying progress or damaging existing infrastructure. They could take control of an autonomous vehicle, causing havoc on city streets. They could compromise voting machines—and possibly change the outcome of an election.
With the IoT increasing the number and the reach of connected devices, a hacker compromising one device could create downstream errors in the data sent to another. The compounding errors would create a cascading effect, disabling more devices connected to the network.