The head of federal responses to industrial cyberattacks warned that the Internet is increasingly exposing U.S. plants to hackers.
The Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team is responsible for helping companies investigate attacks on their corporate networks or industrial control systems, which automate factory processes.
Reuters reports that ICS-CERT chief Marty Edwards told the S4 security conference in Miami that attacks "are gaining access to that control system layer."
“I am very dismayed at the accessibility of some of these networks," Edwards said. "They are just hanging right off the tubes."
He did not address the nature of the increased attacks — including whether they compromised public safety — but Edwards' remarks came three weeks after a highly publicized attack knocked out power to parts of western Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials are still investigating the incident — with the help of U.S. officials — but experts attributed the blackouts to a highly coordinated attack. Ukrainian intelligence officials said after the outages that other attacks from Russia were warded off.
The attack would be the first ever by hackers on a power grid, but observers long warned of the grid's particular vulnerability to cyberattacks.
"This is as big a wake-up call as you get," security expert Joe Weiss told The Christian Science Monitor.