Bloomberg is reporting this week that a mysterious explosion on a pipeline in Turkey just before the Georgia-Russia war broke out in 2008 may have been a Russian cyber attack.
Majority-owned by BP, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline was built to be one of the most secure in the world. But the recent report claims that it was no match for the digital intruders who injected malicious software into the control network, allowing them to tamper with the system and cause an explosion that sent flames 150 ft into the air. At the time, investigators couldn't determine whether a bomb was also used, as the explosion incinerated any evidence.
The incident in 2008 becomes one of the earliest known examples of a cyber attack used to destroy critical infrastructure.
According to the investigation by Bloomberg, the explosion on 5 August, 2008, at Refahiye in eastern Turkey, was the result of a hack on the computers managing the pipeline.
Surveillance footage captured two men in "black military-style uniforms without insignias, similar to the garb worn by special forces troops," shortly before the explosion. Software planted in the pipeline system shut down alarms and raised the pressure in the pipeline to such a high level that it exploded, four western intelligence officials told the agency.
Pipeline operators take cyber security "very seriously" and keep operations communications separated from business and outside communications, said John Stoody, Vice President of Government and Public Relations for the Association of Oil Pipe Lines.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner