Monday, August 24, 2020

Social Media Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

In a Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics I asked computer science students if it was ethical for them to conduct a hacking attack on an electricity system for the military. However, Raman, AlShebli, Waniek, Rahwan and Chih-Hsien Peng (2020) have pointed out How weaponizing disinformation can bring down a city’s power grid, without any need for hacking. Instead a fake offer of a discount on electricity charges would be used to induce customers to turn on their appliances at peak time and overload the grid.

The authors suggest mitigation strategies can be used, with authorities being ready to broadcast warnings. However, I suggest that if the  warnings go out on "old" media, such as local TV stations, many may not see them. Also the attacker could reduce the effectiveness of the official announcements, by sending out fake official denials on social media saying the warnings were not real.

ANU energy researcher and entrepreneur, Dr Backhall, in 2019 described the current Australian electricity grid as being "duct-taped together".  His work on smart renewable energy would allow for a more robust grid, which could switch off loads and switch on battery supplies at peak times. However, this equipment would need to be secure, as it offers a new target for hackers.


Raman, G., AlShebli, B., Waniek, M., Rahwan, T., & Peng, J. C. H. (2020). How weaponizing disinformation can bring down a city’s power grid. PloS one, 15(8), e0236517. URL

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