From: The Hill

By Gautham Nagesh – 12/07/10 03:59 PM ET

The number of cyber attacks aimed at taking over systems that control utilities and other critical industries is on the rise, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security official.

“It’s certainly a trend,” said Greg Schaefer, assistant secretary for DHS’ Office of Cybersecurity and Communications on Tuesday at an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group.

“It’s widely recognized that the cyber ecosystem we have today favors the offense and not the defense. It is simply too hard to secure the systems,” he added.

Schaeffer said the federal government’s tracking of the attacks shows they are growing more sophisticated and are increasingly designed to target specific industrial systems, such as those that control the power grid or the water supply.

One example he pointed to is the Stuxnet virus, which has affected industrial systems from Siemens in a number of countries including Germany and Iran. Computer security experts have speculated the virus may have been devised by the U.S. or Israel to target Iran’s nuclear program.

Schaeffer reportedly declined to comment on the origin of the worm as well as the publication of thousands of classified documents by the website Wikileaks. He did note the Pentagon is responsible for the protection of military networks; DHS is currently tasked with safeguarding the civilian agencies.