Reporting by Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley in Bloomberg is shedding new light on a destructive attack against an oil pipeline that caused a massive explosion in Refahiye Turkey in August 2008. The cyber attack component of the event was not realized till years after it occurred, which is part of the reason the main stream media did not widely report on this cyber act of war.
Robertson and Riley’s reports indicate that the pipeline was fitted with sensors and cameras to monitor all 1099 miles of the pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, but the blast did not trigger a single distress signal. They also did not trigger the massive explosion and continuing combustion in eastern Turkey.
Hackers, probably acting under the direction of Russia, had shut down alarms, cut off communications and then super-pressurized the crude oil in the line. Over 60 hours of video surveillance were erased by the hackers. There was a recording from an unknown IR camera that caught two individuals with laptop computers walking near the pipeline, according to Robertson and Riley.
The business impact of the attack was measured in the billions of dollars. The geopolitical strategic impact is hard to assess. If the goal was to stop the movement of oil via this path, which may well have been Russia’s objective, that goal clearly failed. The pipeline was back in operation soon after the attack. But if the goal was to ensure our nation’s decision-makers are fearful of remote attacks against our own pipelines, well, that message may or may not have been received by our nation’s strategic planners and leadership. Those guys are slow to learn and quick to forget, as we have documented in the past.
Although this was not the first cyber attack that caused physical effects on infrastructure (we believe that to be the Maroochy Shire attacks of 2000), clearly this is one for the textbooks and deserves study by those who want to know the cyber threat (we promise to treat it in the next edition of our book by that title).
- Hack said to cause fiery pipeline blast could rewrite history of cyberwar (arstechnica.com)
- Was This The World’s First Cyber Attack? (warnewsupdates.blogspot.com)
- Mysterious ’08 Turkey Pipeline Blast Opened New Cyberwar Era (lawfareblog.com)
- Trans Adriatic Pipeline unaffected by South Stream (worldbulletin.net)
- Trans-Caspian gas pipeline affects Russia’s legitimate interests – Lavrov (en.itar-tass.com)
- Was 2008 Turkish Pipeline Explosion Caused by Cyber Attack? (matthewaid.com)
- Before Stuxnet, Refahiye pipeline blast in Turkey opened new cyberwar era (smh.com.au)