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Seen At 11: 'It's Not If, But When' -- U.S. Infrastructure Is Vulnerable To Hacking; Experts Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Have our enemies found a new way to wage war against us -- one that could create such chaos in the country that it could bring life as we know it to a complete halt?

"Water, utilities, police, fire, EMT, transportation, financial institutions, health care -- if any one of these services were to be taken down that would wreak havoc," FBI Special Agent in Charge Ari Mahairas said.

As CBS2's Mary Calvi explained, like most things in our home today our country's major infrastructure systems are all online, so if need be they can be controlled remotely.

"This is what keeps us going," control systems engineer Joe Weiss said.

It's what could also stop us in our tracks.

"It's not if, but when," Weiss said.

Virtually everything connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking.

The Bowman Dam in Westchester County was hacked by seven men who are all wanted by the FBI.

"These same individuals were also indicted as part of a larger attack against 46 financial institutions here in the country," Mahairas said.

So why in the world would they want to access a small dam?

"Either they thought they were really going to cause some damage, or they were under the impression this was the Bowman Dam out west, which is a significant dam," Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg said.

That significant dam is located in Oregon, and if under the control of the wrong people, it could potentially cause mass destruction to the homes and businesses in the water's path.

Mehairas is a Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's New York Special Operations and Cyber Division.

"Somebody can sit in the sanctuary and security of their nation and conduct this attack," he said.

Similar hacking incidents across the country and overseas have been thought to be scouting missions.

"We're vulnerable," Weiss said.

Weiss said he fears the day when hackers stop practicing.

"There's reconnaissance that's going on in our electrical grids and other critical infrastructure, and that's not hypothetical, that's factual," he said.

Mahairas admits it's not an easy task, but his agency is working quickly to protect and harden the systems with the help of the best cyber security and in cooperation with the private sector.

"So that we're no longer considered soft targets," he said.

The FBI also said everyone can help in the fight against hacking by making sure our home computers and systems are continually upgraded and secure.


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