Cyber Attacks Can Cause Transformer Explosions

A Cyberattack is defined as an attack launched by cybercriminals using single or multiple computers against an individual or group of computers or networks. These attacks tend to either damage the network or machine. Additionally, other motives can be stealing data, or can also be used to occupy a point to be used to launch other attacks.

We can’t deny that number of cyberattacks is increasing alarmingly in the past few years. This is due to the continuous development of the technologies we are using in our daily life.

Now, that most of our smart appliances are monitored via smartphones. It has become much easier for such malicious actors to break the security and hamper devices and data.

Thus, IoT devices have now become soft target for the cyber attacks. This is probably due to lack of security as it is easy for threat actors to manipulate and control them.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Let us get to know more about the types of cyberattacks and the ways in which they can be triggered.

Cyber attacks are primarily divided into two types-

  • Web-based attacks and
  • System-based attacks.

Web-based cyberattacks:

Web-based attacks are the ones that occur via website or a web application. Some important web-based cyberattacks include:

  • injection attacks,
  • DNS spoofing,
  • session hijacking,
  • phishing,
  • brute force,
  • denial of service,
  • dictionary attacks,
  • URL interpretation,
  • file inclusion attacks, and
  • man in the middle attacks.

System-based cyberattacks:

The attacks that target to compromise a computer or a network of computers are known as system-based cyberattacks.

The system-based cyberattacks include a

  • virus,
  • worm,
  • trojan horse,
  • ransomware,
  • backdoors, and
  • botnets.

Cyber Attacks Can Cause Transformer Explosions which mainly explodes the transformers are generally a part of the system-based attacks. As it is targets on a system or network of systems that are usually remotely controlled or manipulated using bots.

Cyber Attacks causing Transformer Explosions

In recent times, the world witnessed cyberattacks that not only threatened the data or the device security. But even caused major power surges disrupting many lives.

One such incident occurred in LaGuardia airport, when the flights had been grounded for almost 2 hours.  And the entire airport was in dark for more than 45 minutes.

Initial claim of the officials was due to a power surge. However, further investigation revealed, that the disrupt outage was due to the transformer explosion, which was a cause of the cyber attack.

Let me tell you about some similar situations faced in public places due to the disruption in power or transformers which were a cause of cyberattacks.

Similar power outages have also been observed at Reagan National, Bradley International Airport, Las Vegas airport, Disneyland which has caused great inconvenience to many lives. There was a complete power outage for hours which led to flights and rides being halted or delayed.

Transformers and Cyber Attacks

Studies have shown that transformers themselves are not at risk from cyberattacks. However, the components that are added to transformers make the transformers prone to hacking.

Some examples of these components are:

  • monitoring devices,
  • tap changers, and
  • remote sensors.

These components can easily be tampered leaving a significant cyber impact. As such, hackers can trigger a false alarm pretending to replace the transformer or for the maintenance of a small transformer. This can leave the entire system vulnerable.

Tap changers or temperature gauges could also be manipulated. This eventually leads to increase in the temperature of the digitized transformer. Hackers do this by using bot attacks.

As a consequence, damaging these large transformers can lead to months-long outages that often extends to years. Not only transformers but hackers also disrupt power grids by manipulating IoT appliances.

Hackers using IoT appliances to disrupt Power grids

Cybercriminals use IoT based appliances to perform botnet attacks to disrupt the power grids. They use low-security home appliances by continuously turning the appliances on and off and creating an artificial demand for electrical energy.

They use such appliances over more secure power infrastructures. As they can be easily triggered and manipulated. This artificial demand in electricity consumption causes the power grids to disrupt and damage the appliances. Eventually, this leads to tripping generators, blackouts, and damaged transformers.

Additionally, it could also lead to transformer explosions.  In some cases, when a huge number of compromised appliances are triggered and the power is disrupted on a larger scale.

Irrespective of the country they operate in, all power grid operators predict the electrical demands based on past usage patterns.

For instance,

In major cities like California, the demand for energy is maximum during the evening and remains steady throughout the night. Then again the electricity consumption drops in the morning and takes a bang when people tend to turn on their ACs due to the scorching sun.

This demonstrates a pattern in the power usage which the power grid operators use to study and predict future energy consumption.

Due to such patterned behavior, a simple tweak in the consumption graph can cause artificial demands by hackers. All they have to do is control a few compromised IoT devices and turn them on and off repeatedly.

  • This minor increase in power consumption can result in line overload and failures.
  • It can also damage the power grid and transformers.

An IoT botnet of high wattage devices like air conditioners and heaters is used to launch a large scale of a coordinated attack on the power grids.

This is also known as Manipulation of Demand via IoT(MadIoT) as the botnets manipulate the energy demand in the grids.

Final Words

With the ever-increasing demand for IoT appliances, the risk of hacking will increase.  Also, it possesses a threat to the power grid as well as transformers.

Large transformers are also triggered by breaking the security of its components. In short, the transformer explosions have caused power outages at many places and disrupted the lives of many for hours.

This has led us to understand that not all power outages are due to system failure or overload, it can also indicate a cyberattack. Thus, Cyber Attacks Can Cause Transformer Explosions.

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