The National Security Agency is concerned that hackers operating under the banner Anonymous could, over the next two years, achieve the capability to stage a cyberattack that would produce a power outage, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, has warned the White House and other government officials about his agency’s concerns that Anonymous could attain this power by 2014, according to the Journal, which cites unnamed sources “familiar with the gatherings.”
However, the report is scarce on some important technical details — such as just how such an attack could theoretically be carried out and how Anonymous would go about procuring the necessary information and access to make it happen.
While no specific targets are mentioned, John Brennan, chief counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama, reportedly agreed that the loosely affiliated hacktivist collective would indeed have the capability to cause a power outage in “three to five years.”
Furthermore, as The Journal’s Siobhan Gorman noted in his report: “The group has never listed a power blackout as a goal…”
An unidentified power grid source told the newspaper that “we are concerned, as are other sectors,” about being targeted by Anonymous and other emergent hacker groups, however, other officials said that power stations face consistent cyber attacks and there are backup systems in place in the event of a successful strike.
The Journal also points out that someone claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous posted a call for like-minded users to temporarily take down the Internet itself on March 31 by attacking root Domain Name Service servers in what’s been dubbed “Operation Global Blackout,” although that planned attack doesn’t really have anything to do with an actual power blackout, at least not yet.
Web users operating under the banner of Anonymous have mostly reacted to the Journal’s report with scorn and bemusement, vehemently denying the group is pursuing actual power outage capabilities.
“Why would Anons shut off a power grid? There are ppl on life support / other vital services that rely on it. Try again NSA. #FearMongering,” tweeted YourAnonNews, a popular Twitter account that announced the temporary downing of the CIA website on February 10.
“Ridiculous! Why should Anonymous shut off power grid? Makes no sense! They just want to make you feel afraid,” read a post on the AnonOps Communications blog, later tweeted out by Twitter user AnonOps, who in claimed responsibility for knocking offline the Justice Department website and the websites of Universal Music, the MPAA and the RIAA on January 19.
“Lol this is hilarious,” wrote user kimdotcom_ on an Anonymous Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, posting a link to the Journal’s article on Tuesday morning.
“Wow Kimdot that is too funny,” replied another user, Ark_Anon.
Later in the chat, another user posted an image of NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander along with the joking message “you know who is hot?”