Bloomberg News is reporting evidence of a watershed event in the annals of cyberwarfare, a 2008 hack attack that caused a Turkish oil pipeline to spectacularly burst into flames.
If true, the hack could rewrite the history of cyberwar. The first known use of a
computer hack digital weapon to cause physical damage on an enemy is the Stuxnet worm, which in 2009 caused the destruction of uranium centrifuges in Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. (The malware was unleashed on a handful of carefully selected targets a year or so earlier, journalist and author Kim Zetter reported in a recent book, but it took time for the malware to infect its intended target.) The timing has earned Stuxnet the title of the world's first known digital weapon. The Bloomberg account suggests the hack on the Turkish pipeline occurred around the same time Stuxnet was released and was able to successfully detonate its payload effect physical damage a year earlier than Stuxnet did. Update: As several readers have pointed out in comments below, the suspected sabotage of a Siberian pipeline in 1982 is believed to have used a logic bomb.
As described by Bloomberg, attackers gained access to the pipeline's computerized operational controls and increased the pressure of the crude oil flowing inside. By hacking the video and sensors that closely monitored the 1,099-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the attackers were able to prevent operators from learning of the blast until 40 minutes after it happened, from a security worker who saw the flames, Bloomberg said. As many as 60 hours of surveillance video were also erased. According to Bloomberg: