Previous blogs have discussed how cyber terrorism works, who cyber terrorists target and what public opinions of cyber terrorism are. When considering past cases of cyber terrorist attacks arguably the most notorious attacks was during the cold war in 1982, the CIA allegedly found a way to disrupt the operation of a Siberian gas pipeline to Russia without using traditional explosive devices such as missiles or bombs. Instead, they caused the Siberian gas pipeline to explode using a portion of a code in the computer system that controls its operation in what they tagged as “logic bomb.”
When many people think of Siberia, they imagine freezing temperatures and enormous wasteland, however, Siberia contains a huge supply for natural gas. Conversely, getting this natural gas from the far reaches of the Russian northwest into Moscow posed problematic. The Soviet Union had the skills and knowledge to engineer a solution, although a manual operation would stand to strenuous. Furthermore the Soviet Union did not have the computing expertise to automate more of the processes. Consequently, the KGB (Committee for State Security) sent an operative to a Canadian company to steal the software in order to create the pipeline.
October 1982, the pipeline exploded ‘a bizarre event out in the middle of Soviet nowhere’ (Reed, T.2004). Reed estimated that ‘one-seventh the magnitude of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II’.
What caused the explosion?
There have been numerous claims suggesting that the CIA where heavily involved in the “logical bombing: of the Siberian pipeline. A year or so after the explosion a KGB spy called Vladimir Vetrov, charged with stealing the secrets of Western technology. In 1981, Vladimir supposedly passed classified documents to French spy who then shared this information with the CIA. The CIA then detected that the Soviet Union had infiltrated American laboratories and government agencies. This generated one of the most successful counter-intelligence in the U.S cold war history.(Reed, T.2004), explained “the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines, and valves was programmed to go haywire, after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds.”
However, according to an informed source from one of the three-letter agencies, that explosion had nothing to do with CIA sabotage and everything to do with a Russian engineer who, when discovering a leak in the pipeline, simply kept increasing pressure to maintain the flow of natural gas (Carr, J.2012)
Interestingly, The CIA called in Gus Weiss, to put in a Trojan horse into the software that the KGB was trying to steal and then, let them steal it. Gus died in 2003 which was ruled a suicide. Nevertheless, the Independent claimed that his death was surrounded by “mysterious circumstances” (Lichfield, J.2009).
It is extremely difficult to come to an absolute understanding of what actually caused the Siberian pipeline explosion. There have been numerous claims suggesting that the CIA were involved in the explosion. However, much like any other government classified cases the public have been shadowed. I am completely doubled minded in what to believe is the truth, when considering a technical fault was the cause of the explosion this can be believable as technical faults can always occur. Then again there have been a widespread of rumours targeting the CIA, even considering them to be the developer of the AIDS virus intending it to be a biological weapon. Inevitably, the real cause of the Siberian gas pipeline explosion may never be revealed to the public, only the government agencies involved or the technical engineers involved will ever know.
Carr ,J. (2012). The Myth of the CIA and the Trans-Siberian Pipeline Explosion . Available: http://jeffreycarr.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/myth-of-cia-and-trans-siberian-pipeline.html.
Lichfield, J. (2009). How the Cold War was won… by the French . Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/how-the-cold-war-was-won-by-the-french-1788720.html.
Reed, T (2004). At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War. New York: Ballantine Books. p.102.