The hacking group Anonymous is infamous for attacking everything from police departments to government websites and social networks, but now the government fears that the hacking collective could go after something much more important: the U.S. power grid. General Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) wrote a letter to the White House recently in which he noted his concern that Anonymous has the power to “disrupt power supplies” and “damage computer networks,” The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday.

LulzSec, a subgroup of Anonymous that gained headlines for multiple security breaches in 2011, used to say that it was hacking “for the LULZ,” or simply for the laughs, but the NSA thinks Anonymous might have a much darker vision for the future. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Anonymous said last week that it will attempt to shut down the Internet on March 31st as part of an initiative called “Operation Blackout.” Sounds pretty serious for a group best known for plastering political messages on websites, and thankfully experts reportedly consider the risk of such a blackout to be low. Electric companies, however, say they’re already preparing for cyber attacks from the likes of Anonymous, and other would-be hackers.

“The industry is engaged and stepping up widely to respond to emerging cyber threats,” one industry insider told The Wall Street Journal. “There is a recognition that there are groups out there like Anonymous, and we are concerned, as are other sectors.” Reportedly, only China and Russia currently have the power to develop a plan strong enough to knock out part of the U.S. cyber grid,  The Wall Street Journal said. The fear is that one country might actually provide a hacking group such as Anonymous with the power to do so.

“A near-peer competitor could give cyber malware capability to some fringe group,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Journal.” Some hacker, next thing you know, could be into our electrical grid. We have to get after this.” The government has reportedly made cyber security a “top priority”  but the NSA did not go on the record in regards to a specific threat from Anonymous.

[via The Wall Street Journal]