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January 17, 2017updated 25 Jan 2017 3:20pm

Don’t worry about cyber attacks, worry about SQUIRRELS

Squirrels prove to be the toughest nuts to crack when it comes to attacks on infrastructure.

By Ellie Burns

DDoS, malware, viruses, insider threats – all very-real, very dangerous threats in today’s world. However, lurking in the treetops and undergrowth, not the Dark Web, is a malicious creature ready to cause unknown downtime to infrastructure – squirrels.

If you thought that enemy states and hackers were the number one threat to global infrastructure, then you would be wrong. According to security researcher Cris Thomas, squirrels have been responsible for more than 1,700 power cuts. These squirrels do not act alone, working alongside birds, rats and snakes to impact five million people.

The threat of squirrels was tracked by Mr Thomas in his Cyber Squirrel 1 project, which was set up to dispel the hype around cyber attacks. In what was an attack on the ‘”ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry,” Mr Thomas outlined the most malicious wildlife operating today. With squirrels topping the list with an impressive 879 ‘attacks’, their tree-top neighbours, the birds, came in second with 434 attacks. Also making the list was:

  • snakes – 83
  • raccoons – 72
  • rats – 36
  • martens – 22
  • frogs – three

Mr Thomas argued that the impact of such attacks by frogs, snakes and squirrels was much larger than any damage done by cyber attacks, using Stuxnet as case in point. Stuxnet was a malicious computer worm which caused substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program – damage, Mr Thomas argued, which was tiny compared to the cyber threat of animals.

Although most of the attacks concerned power cables, Mr Thomas did record one incident whereby a jellyfish clogged cooling water pipes and shut down a Swedish nuclear plant. Eight deaths have been attributed to animal attacks on infrastructure, with squirrels accounting for six of those deaths.

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