The US is bracing for an attack on its national energy grid computing systems involving Stuxnet-like malware, according to a senior director from the Department of Energy.
Patrick Ciganer, director of the department's Transparency Initiative, told attendees at a conference organised by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association that "it is going to happen".
"We have to avoid the obvious scenarios and mitigate the consequences when an event happens," he said.
Ciganer explained that the department has already taken preventative steps, such as ensuring a high level of redundancy in the network and a defence-in-depth approach to cyber security.
Stuxnet was branded "probably the most important malware in the last 10 years " by F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen at the event.
The malicious code exploited four zero-day vulnerabilities in its mission to disrupt industrial supervisory control and data acquisition systems, and is likely to have been crafted by a state-backed group.
However, Ciganer warned that Stuxnet is not the only threat facing critical national infrastructures such as the US energy grid, and that the utility industry's move towards smart grids could pose new security threats globally.
"We had a simple point-to-point system with a clearly defined set up of controls, but as [the system] gets smarter with localised intelligence the risk will increase," he said.
"With multi-layered interconnectivity you are opening the door to a broader set of vulnerabilities."
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