# Opener

Cyber risk is no longer just in your computer

Published by Peter Hawley

Almost all of us spend big chunks of our lives online, either on laptops or tablets earning our daily bread, or perhaps diligently ignoring the rest of the planet on the underground or in a coffee shop whilst getting our dopamine hit from vicariously living through the staged happiness of others via the social media provider de jour. But, picture this: a cyber attack that goes beyond digital mayhem and delves into the realm of tangible destruction. In a display of the consequences of such intrusions, critical infrastructure systems become the unwitting victims owing to vulnerabilities lurking in interconnected networks, software, or hardware components.

Consider a power grid. By infiltrating the control systems responsible for electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, these malicious actors gain the power to wreak havoc. They manipulate or disable vital components, plunging vast areas into darkness. But the real danger lies in the collateral damage—the physical equipment. Transformers (like sausages on a summer barbecue) fry, generators (errrr, like an apple) crumble, and transmission lines (nope, I’m all out of food similes) bear the brunt of this cyber onslaught.

It doesn’t stop there. Manufacturing or industrial facilities find themselves in the crosshairs. With their sights set on industrial control systems, these attackers tamper with processes in oil refineries, chemical plants, or water treatment facilities. Explosions, fires, and toxic releases become realities. The consequences? Lives endangered, the environment scarred, and communities in disarray. Did someone mutter “ESG”?

And let’s not forget the Internet of Things (IoT), where connectivity turns into a double-edged sword. Cyber attacks target IoT devices, turning them into unwitting accomplices in their physical-damage spree. Home security systems compromised, granting unauthorized entry to burglars or worse. Autonomous vehicles or traffic control systems falling prey to remote manipulation, leading to chaos on the roads.

In summary, cyber attacks have transcended the virtual realm, leaving behind a trail of physical destruction. Critical infrastructure, industrial control systems, and interconnected IoT devices all face the wrath of these digital adversaries. This alarming reality underscores the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures across sectors, safeguarding against the tangible consequences of these virtual onslaughts.