Report: Cyberattacks on critical U.S. targets surge

The number of incidents reported to ICS-CERT by the companies that own the vital equipment rose from nine in 2009 to 198 in 2011. The equipment includes operating valves and switches in power plants, refineries, chemical plants, and nuclear generating stations.

Some observers cautioned against panic over the size of the jump, saying the rate of increase is somewhat exaggerated because the government cybersquad was a new entity – meaning that reporting rose naturally over that period. It may take a few more years to establish a firm trend line, these experts said.

Indeed, the number of the most serious cases, requiring “flyaway teams” to swoop down at those companies’ sites, involved just two visits in 2009, eight in 2010, and seven in 2011. That makes for a total of 17. Also, the number of cases involving analysis efforts by ICS-CERT, but not a site visit, were just 21 in 2011 – indicating that many incident reports were lesser threats or perhaps even false alarms.