Malware Threat: 'Industroyer' Threatens Electricity Distribution Systems Around the World

REUTERS/Rebecca CookDetroit Edison's Trenton Channel Power Plant is seen in Trenton.

A newly discovered powerful malware dubbed as Industroyer is now seen to threaten electricity distribution systems, particularly networks that control power grids, around the world. The malware is said to be the most potent threat ever discovered since the Stuxnet malware, which was responsible for previously sabotaging Iran's nuclear program.

The existence of the new malware was confirmed by Slovakia-based cyber security firm ESET, which is currently examining a possible malware attack on one of Ukraine's power distribution systems. Last December, the power in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, suddenly went down for an hour, and it is speculated that Industroyer was the reason behind it.

In a paper published by the firm, ESET revealed that the malware can totally shut down power distribution around the world as it is capable of directly running electrical switches and circuit breakers, as well as harming equipment necessary for the distribution of electricity.

In a statement, American Public Power Association CEO Sue Kelly revealed that electricity providers in the U.S. are now alarmed by the malicious code. "We are going up a level in the video game here," she said, and added that they are now working with the U.S. government and other international organizations in assessing the malware and preventing it from causing damage to power systems, if possible.

According to ESET, Industroyer works by making use of old and poorly-secured protocols that were put in place decades ago and are currently built in infrastructure systems around the world. Through accessing these protocols, the malware becomes capable of directly running electricity distribution systems.

Although ESET refused to name who might be the culprit behind the powerful malware, another cyber security company, Dragos, linked it to Sandworm. Based in Russia, this group of hackers is reportedly tied to the Russian government, which allegedly backs the ongoing rebellion in Ukraine.