Various nuclear plants and energy providers like Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Burlington, Kansas, have recently been the targets of a hacking attempt, according to a joint report from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI last week.
The effort to breach the computer systems of these nuclear plants was followed immediately by an urgent amber warning, which is the second-highest rating for a threat like this. While the Department of Homeland Security has not released the names of the other facilities that were targeted, the department said that the attempted hacking does not pose a threat to the public.
The Nuclear Energy Institute has stated that the nuclear reactors weren't affected at all by the hacking, but even so, the potential disaster that could have unfolded is terrifying to think about in and of itself. Had these hackers — whether they were operating from within the country or abroad — successfully gained control over the facility's nuclear reactors, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people could have been severely injured or killed.
No one knows if or when World War III will occur, but if it does, cyber warfare will no doubt play a significant role. If a foreign or domestic enemy that seeks the destruction of the United States hacks into our governmental departments and agencies, the results could be anything from the release of top-secret information to the hijacking of our nuclear stockpile (RELATED: As war with North Korea approaches, the Pentagon scrambles to protect the U.S. from a cyber attack).
But as it turns out, the world may not have to wait until World War III to witness the devastating effects of cyber warfare. Last month in Ukraine's capital city Kiev, ATM machines failed, preventing people from withdrawing money out of their bank accounts. Eighty miles away at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, workers were forced to abandon their failing computers and monitor radiation levels manually. As it turns out, several different tech companies around the world were also experiencing technical difficulties, including the Danish shipping company Maersk, the American drug company Merck, and even a Cadbury chocolate factory located in Australia.