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.

2020
Cyber-Kinetic Gas Pipeline US

Targeted Attack – US Natural Gas Operator Shuts Down for 2 Days – Ransomware

US natural gas compression facility shuts down for 2 days after an attack on OT. A cyber threat actor used spearphishing to obtain initial access to IT network before pivoting to its OT network. Organization decided to shut down. It lasted two days.Cyber-Kinetic Gas Pipeline US
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.

Soyuz Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Aircraft Cyber-Kinetic
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.

WannaCry Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Superyachts Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Industrial Robots Cyber-Kinetic
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.

BrickerBot Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Dallas Cyber-Kinetic
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.

ICS Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Austria Cyber-Kinetic
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.

St Louis Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Defibrilator Cyber-Kinetic
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.

SF Muni Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Finland Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Ransomware Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Drones Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Water Treatment Plant Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Black Energy Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Smart Rifle Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Jeep Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Military Aircraft Cyber-Kinetic
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.

German Steel Mill Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Traffic Lights Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Nuclear Power Plant Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Hotel Lock Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Texas Water Treatment Plant Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Insulin Cyber-Kinetic
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.

San-Bruno Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Marshall Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Stuxnet Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Comanche Peak Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Lodz Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Turkish Pipeline Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Epilepsy Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Pacific Energy Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Hatch Nuclear Power Plant Cyber-Kinetic
2007
Aurora Cyber-Kinetic

Research – Aurora Generator Test

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

Aurora Cyber-Kinetic
2006
Water-Treatment-Plant Cyber-Kinetic

Untargeted Attack – 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.

Water-Treatment-Plant Cyber-Kinetic
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.

LATraffic Cyber-Kinetic
2006
Browns-Ferry Cyber-Kinetic

Malfunction – Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

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

Browns-Ferry Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Taum-Sauk Cyber-Kinetic
2005
Daimler Cyber-Kinetic

Untargeted Attack – Worm Cripples Industrial Plants

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

Daimler Cyber-Kinetic
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.

CSX Cyber-Kinetic
2003
Davis-Besse Cyber-Kinetic

Untargeted Attack – 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.

Davis-Besse Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Maroochy Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Bellingham Explosion Cyber-Kinetic
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.

USS Yorktown Cyber-Kinetic
1997
Worcester Airport Cyber-Kinetic

Untargeted Attack – 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.

Worcester Airport Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Ariane Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Therac Machine Cyber-Kinetic
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.

Siberian Pipeline Cyber-Kinetic
marin@5g.security | Website | Other articles

Marin Ivezic is a Cybersecurity & Privacy Partner in PwC Canada focused on risks of emerging technologies. He leads PwC’s global 5G cybersecurity efforts as well as industrial, IoT and critical infrastructure cybersecurity services in the region. All these focus areas are being transformed with the emergence of 5G, massive IoT (mIoT) and critical IoT (cIoT). 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.

Cyber-Kinetic Timeline