UglyGorilla: Why cybersecurity matters
- Last Updated: Friday, 31 July 2015 23:51
By Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson - Jun 13, 2014
Somewhere in China, a man typed his user name, “ghost,” and password, “hijack,” and proceeded to rifle the computers of a utility in the Northeastern U.S.
He plucked schematics of its pipelines. He copied security-guard patrol memos. He sought access to systems that regulate the flow of natural gas. He cruised channels where keystrokes could cut off a city’s heat, or make a pipeline explode.
That didn’t appear to be his intention, and neither was economic espionage. While he was one of the Chinese officers the U.S. charged last month with infiltrating computers to steal corporate secrets, this raid was different. The hacker called UglyGorilla invaded the utility on what was probably a scouting mission, looking for information China could use to wage war.
UglyGorilla is one of many hackers the FBI has watched. Agents have recorded raids by other operatives in China and in Russia and Iran, all apparently looking for security weaknesses that could be employed to disrupt the delivery of water and electricity and impede other functions critical to the economy, according to former intelligence officials with knowledge of the investigation. The incursions spurred a debate in the Obama administration over whether and how to respond, and raised alarms among lawmakers briefed on the incidents.