Six Cyber-Physical Attacks the World Could Live Without

The ransomware attack on the San Francisco MUNI was just one cyber physical attack the world has witnessed in recent years. (Photo courtesy of Twitter.)

In-brief: cyber attacks that affect physical systems are still a small minority of all incidents. But they’re becoming more common. What are some of the attacks we’ve seen to date and what do they tell us about what’s to come? Check out this slide show for an answer to those questions. 

A December power outage at the Pivnichna remote power transmission facility in the city of Kiev, Ukraine was the second such incident in a year linked to hacking activity by groups believed to be working on behalf of the government of Russia, according to reports. The grid hack was one of thousands of large and small cyber intrusions into Ukrainian networks, suggesting that cyber physical attacks are becoming an established part of the toolkit for state-sponsored actors.


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Of course, cyber-physical attacks have been touted as a serious threat for several years. But in recent years, these attacks have crept from theory to reality, with attacks on cars, electrical grids and industrial plants. The world has yet to see such an attack that has caused widespread damage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If staged successfully, they have the potential to cause destruction and even death outside of the digital world.

Here are a few examples of cyber-physical attacks that have made headlines so far. While not an exhaustive list, these are the type of attacks security researchers say will be more common in the months and years ahead.