Category: Cyber Ethics

Cyber attacks can shut down critical infrastructure. It’s time to make cyber security compulsory

On May 7, a pipeline system carrying almost half the fuel used on the east coast of the United States was crippled by a major cyber attack. The five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in widespread fuel shortages and panic-buying as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida declared a state of emergency. In Georgia alone thousands lost their homes or other assets due to price hikes for gasoline. “As we’ve seen with Russia’s interference in our elections over last year,” Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus wrote Thursday night, “we have new evidence that [Russian] hackers were behind this hack.”

Collateral damage

The risk of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure is not new. In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, research demonstrated the need to address global security risks as we analysed issues of vulnerability and critical infrastructure protection. This work produced a consensus paper in 2004 by James M. Stiglitz at Harvard Law School based primarily upon information contained within UNAIDS (the United Nations Assistance Mission for Disaster Relief), which recommended that an appropriate threshold should be set beyond which all vulnerabilities were potentially mitigated from any potential breach. The document created a framework with regard both to current policy approaches and anticipated future ones under consideration; this will remain relevant until governments adopt effective policies or respond appropriately to threats they deem worthy.

On May 7, a pipeline system carrying almost half the fuel used on the east coast of the United States was crippled by a major cyber attack. The five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in widespread fuel shortages and panic-buying as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida declared a state of emergency. In Georgia alone…