Cyber Attack and Disruption

Key Points

  • Modern society is dependent on computer systems and the internet to maintain basic functions. They are increasingly used to run the infrastructure that supports dense, urban environments.

  • Computer systems can face disruptions due to human error, intentional cyber-attacks, physical damage from secondary hazards, and electro-magnetic pulse (EMP).

  • Cyber-attacks can take varying forms including amateur hacking, "hacktivism," ransomware attacks, cyber espionage, or sophisticated state-sponsored attacks. These attacks have the potential to cause internet or utility outages, leak or delete sensitive data and information, compromise critical infrastructure or services, or cause physical destruction.

  • The City of Seattle faces daily threats of cyber-attack and disruption but has yet to experience a large-scale attack. The biggest concern is an attack on critical infrastructure such as the transportation, water, or power system. Manual backups still exist for these systems but would degrade overall service capabilities if it were required that these systems revert back to non-computerized technology.

  • Cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated around the world. Despite improvements in security, the U.S. remains behind in mitigating the threat of cyber-attacks. Many experts believe that a major cyber-attack that will cause widespread harm to a nation's security and capacity to defend itself and its people by 2025.

  • Seattle faces a growing threat of cyber-attack as more of the city's infrastructure and basic functions are connecting to the internet. Traditionally non-computerized items (e.g. watches, thermostats, printers) are being connected to the internet and providing new avenues for hackers.

  • While a catastrophic cyber-attack or disruption has not yet occurred in our world, the consequences of such attack in Seattle could severely harm the public and degrade or halt basic city functions and services.

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