Below is a timeline of key historic cyber-kinetic attacks, system malfunctions and key researcher demos targeting cyber-physical systems (CPS), Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) resulting in kinetic impacts in the physical world. I tried to select only those that were first-of-the-kind or that significantly increased general awareness about a particular type of an attack or incident

I know that the list is incomplete. That’s where you come in. If you are aware of an incident or a research that demonstrated something new regarding cyber-kinetic threats or helped significantly raise the awareness, please contact me.

For a more readable version of the history of cyber-kinetic incidents and attacks check out this chapter from my book: https://5g.security/cyber-kinetic/timeline-of-key-cyber-kinetic-attacks-incidents-and-research/. You can also download all these incidents listed in one PowerPoint slide from https://www.slideshare.net/secret/2nijwZSS9HZFru.

1982
Siberian Pipeline Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Explosion of Siberian Natural Gas Pipeline

Claimed by a former U.S. CIA operative to have been achieved by inserting malicious code into Canadian pipeline software that Soviet operatives were trying to steal.
1985
Therac Machine Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Therac-25 Radiation Poisoning

Six cancer patients died or suffered serious damage from malfunctions in radiation therapy equipment. Because of concurrent programming errors, the machine sometimes gave its patients radiation doses that were hundreds of times greater than normal, resulting in death or serious injury.

1996
Ariane Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Ariane 5 Rocket Explosion

The 1996 maiden launch of the Ariane 5 rocket by the European Space Agency ended spectacularly with a malfunction causing it to explode 40 seconds after lift-off. The cause was tracked to a single integer overflow coding error.

1997
Worcester Airport Cyber-Kinetic

Collateral Damage – Worcester Airport Control Tower Lost Communication

A teen’s hack of a Boston area telephone system cut off communications for the airport control tower and other critical systems.

1997
USS Yorktown Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – USS Yorktown Stranded

A computerized US Navy warship’s propulsion system was disabled by bad data that it was not equipped to handle.

1999
Bellingham Explosion Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Bellingham, Washington, Pipeline Rupture

Poor programming practices led to a pressure buildup and subsequent explosion that killed three people, injured eight others and released a quarter-million gallon of gasoline.

2000
Maroochy Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Maroochy Shire Wastewater Plant Compromised

A disgruntled contract worker released 264,000 liters of raw sewage around the township in revenge for not being offered a permanent position with the facility.

2003
Davis-Besse Cyber-Kinetic

Collateral Damage – Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant Worm

A worm entered the power plant’s network through a T1 line between a contractor and the plant that the plant’s staff didn’t know existed. Critical systems were unavailable for five hours but, fortunately, the plant at that time was shut down for maintenance.

2003
CSX Cyber-Kinetic

Collateral Damage – Worm Cripples CSX Transport System

A worm shut down rail and commuter transport for 12 hours on the U.S. East Coast.

2005
Daimler Cyber-Kinetic

Collateral Damage – Worm Cripples Industrial Plants

A worm left workers idle at Daimler-Chrysler, Caterpillar and Boeing plants while IT staffs patched infected Windows systems.

2005
Taum-Sauk Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Taum Sauk Dam Failure

Discrepancies between pressure gauges at the dam and at the remote monitoring facility led to the release of a billion gallons of water, destroying 281 acres of state park land.

2006
Browns-Ferry Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

Excessive traffic on ICS systems caused two circulation pumps to fail.

2006
LATraffic Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Los Angeles Traffic System Attack

Two city employees caused traffic lights to malfunction, snarling traffic, in an attempt to pressure the city to accept union bargaining demands.

2006
Water-Treatment-Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Collateral Damage – Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Water Filtration Plant Hack

A hacker gained control of sensitive systems but, fortunately, did not realize what he had gained control of. He used the network that controlled the systems merely to send spam emails.

2007
Aurora Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Aurora Generator Test

Researchers demonstrated how power generators could be compromised and caused to explode by remote hackers.

2008
Hatch Nuclear Power Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Hatch Nuclear Power Plant

Glitches in a software update provided erroneous readings of water levels that triggered a plant shutdown.

2008
Pacific Energy Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Pacific Energy Resources Hack

A contractor compromised multiple systems and impaired operations in revenge for not being offered a permanent position. Fortunately, little damage was done.

2008
Epilepsy Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Internet Attack on Epileptics

A hacktivist group hacked the website of the Epilepsy Foundation and inserted graphics designed to trigger migraines or seizures in epileptic patient.

2008
Turkish Pipeline Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Turkish Oil Pipeline Rupture

Pipeline rupture cut off oil supplies to the nation of Georgia at a time when political tensions between Russia and Georgia were high, leading to suspicion of a Russian attack.

2008
Lodz Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Lodz, Poland, Tram Hack

A teen’s hack of the tram system escalated to the point where a dozen passengers were injured, making this the first cyber-kinetic attack to result in human injury.

2009
Comanche Peak Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Texas Power Company Hack

A fired employee hacked the system to cripple power forecasting systems, but could have used his access to inflict massive damage.

2009
Stuxnet Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Stuxnet Attack on Iranian Nuclear Power Facility

A worm allegedly created by U.S. CIA and Israeli government targeting Iranian uranium enrichment devices destroyed as many as 10% of the illegally obtained and operated uranium enrichment centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear facility.

2010
Marshall Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Marshall, Michigan, Crude Oil Spill

Multiple system malfunctions slowed response to the spill, leading to a discharge of 819,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.

2010
San-Bruno Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion

Erroneous readings led to a pressure overload that caused a rupture that killed eight, injured 60 and destroyed 37 homes.

2011
Insulin Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests of Insulin Pumps

Researchers Jerome Radcliffe and Barnaby Jack each demonstrated vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to administer fatal doses of insulin to diabetic patients.

2011
Texas Water Treatment Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Houston, Texas, Water Distribution System Hack

A Romanian hacker shows evidence that he had easily breached the distribution facility. Fortunately, his motivation was only to embarrass officials who had publicly downplayed the seriousness of the Springfield water utility malfunction.

2012
Hotel Lock Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Researcher Defeats Key Card Locks

At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas developer Cody Brocious demonstrates a hack of key card locks that are in use in four million hotel rooms.

2013
Nuclear Power Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Unidentified Nuclear Power Plant

A top official of the International Atomic Energy Agency admitted that an unnamed nuclear power plant had suffered a cyber-kinetic attack sometime between 2013 and 2016, but had managed to defeat the attack without requiring a facility shutdown.

2014
Traffic Lights Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests of Traffic System Vulnerabilities

Researcher Cesar Cerrudo demonstrated the ease with which sensors and control systems could be compromised with false data that could cause widespread system disruption.

2014
German Steel Mill Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – German Steel Mill Attack

Hackers inflicted massive damage on an unidentified German steel mill by disabling shutdown safeguards and operating equipment beyond their breaking points.

2015
Military Aircraft Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Fatal Military Aircraft Crash Linked to a Software Fault

A military plane crash in Spain killing four crew members was probably caused by accidental deletion of files that its engines required in order to correctly interpret engine readings.

2015
Jeep Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Researchers Remotely Take Control of Cars

Researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated vulnerabilities of computerized systems that control throttle, braking and steering of popular passenger vehicles. Chinese researchers demonstrated similar vulnerabilities, and my team has demonstrated the ability to remotely take partial control of multiple vehicles simultaneously.

2015
Smart Rifle Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Test of Smart Rifles

Researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger demonstrated a hack of a smart rifle that uses computer-aided aiming. Researchers managed to prevent the gun from firing, make it miss its target, and even tweak the targeting system so precisely that the bullet could hit a target of researcher’s chosing rather than the original target.

2015
Black Energy Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – “BlackEnergy” Ukrainian Power Grid Attacks

Russian government-sponsored hackers are believed to have disrupted Ukrainian power grids, leaving more than 80,000 people without power.

2016
Water Treatment Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Unidentified Water Distribution Facility Attack

A hacktivist group with ties to Syria gained control of critical systems of the facility, which has not been identified for security reasons. Had the hackers known how to use the system they had compromised, they could have inflicted mass casualties. Fortunately, they did not.

2016
Drones Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Test Defeats Geofencing Safeguards on Drones

Team has demonstrated vulnerabilities in drone geofencing safeguards that are meant to protect airports, military installations and major events. By compromising the system, the researchers were able to instruct the drones to go above the airport without pilot’s control.

2016
Ransomware Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Ransomware Attacks on Hospitals

At least 70 hospitals throughout UK and US suffered ransomware attacks in 2016. This number would grow by orders of magnitude in 2017.

2016
Finland Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Lappeenranta, Finland, Smart Building Attack

A DDoS attack shut down heat and hot water in two apartment buildings in Finland in the middle of Finnish winter.

2016
SF Muni Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – San Francisco Transportation System Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attack on municipal transportation system was quickly defeated, but evidence found in connection with the attack suggests that the perpetrator had successfully obtained ransom from a number of industrial victims.

2016
Defibrilator Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests of Defibrillators and Pacemakers

Cybersecurity researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium and the University of Birmingham in England reported that they were able to successfully hack into ten different implantable cardioverter defibrillators using relatively inexpensive, easily obtainable electronic components and a radio antenna.

2017
St Louis Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – St. Louis, Missouri, Library System Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attack shut down St. Louis library system for two weeks while technicians rebuilt the computer system from scratch.

2017
Austria Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Alpine Ski Resort Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attack locks guests out of rooms and prevents the resort from creating new room keys.

2017
ICS Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests Show Vulnerabilities of ICS Systems to Ransomware

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers David Formby and Raheem Beyah demonstrated a ransomware targeting industrial control devices.

2017
Dallas Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – Unauthorized Activation of Dallas, Texas, Emergency Sirens

Emergency sirens sounded for more than 90 minutes in the middle of the night and system personnel had to shut down the entire system to stop them.

2017
BrickerBot Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – BrickerBot: Botnet That Permanently Incapacitates Poorly Secured IoT Devices

BrickerBot botnets were the “permanent denial-of-service botnet” looking for insecure IoT devices such as those with telnet-based interface exposed and with default passwords and then attempting to take the devices out before they could be enslaved by Mirai and similar malicious botnets. The operator of BrickerBot claimed to have impacted more than 2 million devices.

2017
Industrial Robots Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests Show Vulnerabilities of Industrial Robots

Trend Micro researchers demonstrated multiple attack vectors in industrial robots that are vulnerable to attack by hackers.

2017
Superyachts Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Tests Show Vulnerabilities of Superyachts

Researcher Campbell Murray demonstrated the ease with which superyacht navigation, communication and Wi-Fi systems could be controlled remotely by hackers.

2017
WannaCry Cyber-Kinetic

Targeted Attack – “WannaCry” Ransomware Attacks

More than 75,000 hospitals, government agencies and businesses as large as Fedex and PetroChina in 99 countries found their systems locked and encrypted in a massive ransomware attack.

2017
Aircraft Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Test Demonstrates Vulnerabilities of a Commercial Aircraft

Passenger jet controls hacked remotely while on the runway by a team of US government, industry and academic officials.

2017
Soyuz Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Soyuz Rocket Failure Linked to a Programming Error

Russian rocket failed to deploy 19 satellites it was carrying. Instead of releasing them into the orbit, it sent them toward Earth burning them up in Earth’s atmosphere. It appears that the cause can be tracked to a programming error.

Marin Ivezic
marin@ivezic.com | Website | Other articles

Marin Ivezic is a Partner at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoppers) specializing in risks of emerging technologies. He leads PwC’s 5G cybersecurity efforts. He also leads cybersecurity for the Telecommunications, Media & Technology sector; and Industrial, IoT, Critical Infrastructure & Cyber-Kinetic security capabilities in the region. All these focus areas are being transformed with the emergence of 5G. Marin worked with critical infrastructure protection organizations in a dozen countries, 20+ of the top 100 telecom companies, and a number of technology companies on understanding the geopolitics of 5G; uncovering as-yet-unknown security and privacy risks of 5G, AI and IoT; and defining novel security and privacy approaches to address emerging technology risks.