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Turkish oil pipeline

The August 2008 Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline explosion in Refahiye, eastern Turkey, was ruled at the time to be an accident resulting from a mechanical failure, which itself was a result of an oversight by Turkish government’s supervisors.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant pro-Kurdish organization, claimed credit for the explosion – which was plausible, because of the PKK’s history of bombing pipelines and other Turkish infrastructure assets.

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For some Western intelligence agencies, however, the explosion was beyond the capabilities of the PKK, and not likely the result of an accident. Instead, these intelligence services concluded, the explosion was the result of a cyberattack.

According to people familiar with an investigation of the incident, hackers had infiltrate the pipeline’s surveillance systems and valve stations, and super-pressurized the crude oil in the pipeline, causing the explosion.

According to HomeLand Security News Wire, in 2010, U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies were credited with the first major cyberattack against a foreign power via the Stuxnet malware which crippled uranium-enrichment centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The revelation of a possible cyberattack against the BTC pipeline, however, “rewrites the history of cyberwar,” said Derek Reveron, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.