On a broiling day last August, managers of a huge petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia discovered to their horror that it had been attacked. The consequences could have been catastrophic: the invaders had seized command of its computerised control-and-safety system, and had the power to damage it severely.
The attackers carried no guns, explosives, or conventional weapons. Yet they could have blown up the plant – its exact location remains a secret – from thousands of miles away, killing its workers, crippling the local economy and poisoning the surrounding region.
For they were computer hackers, and their weapon, dubbed both ‘Triton’ and ‘Trisis’ by security experts, was a piece of malware, a malicious software program.