Cyber Warfare: Bad Actors and Our Electrical Grid

 

Stores are closed. Cell service is failing. Broadband Internet is gone. Hospitals are operating on generators, but rapidly running out of fuel. Garbage is rotting in the streets, and clean water is scarce as people boil water stored in bathtubs to stop the spread of bacteria. And escape? There is none, because planes can’t fly, trains can’t run, and gas stations can’t pump fuel.

That is the potential scenario if the U.S. undergoes a major cyber attack against our electrical grid. We know it’s likely that the Russians have hacked several U.S. companies, both in the public and private sectors. We don’t know, however, how deeply they have penetrated our systems overall.

We’ve been warned for years that our electrical grid is vulnerable to attackers who damage critical substations. Although some steps have been taken to mitigate the problem, the threat is still serious. Now we have the added danger of a cyber attack, the kind of attack launched against the Ukrainian power structure last December 23. Admiral Mike Rogers says the Russian government hackers likely were responsible; they even studied the way the Ukrainians responded in order to slow down their recovery of electrical power. He is very concerned about the implications of that action for this country.

In contrast, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that downplays the seriousness of these attacks against energy companies, calling them “low level cybercrime that is likely opportunistic in nature rather than specifically aimed at the sector, [and] is financially or ideologically motivated, and not meant to be destructive.” I’m not reassured.

The fact is that not only Russia is working on cyber attacks, but other rogue players such as North Korea and Iran are probably in our systems. Specialists warn that the most damaging kind of attack would be a coordinated strike against multiple power stations. If they knocked out 100 stations in the Northeast, “the damaged power grid would quickly overload, causing a cascade of secondary outages across multiple states. While some areas could recover quickly, others might be without power for weeks.”

In 2003 there was a blackout that spread from the coastal Northeast into the Midwest and Canada. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said, “If you think of how crippled our region is when we lose power for just a couple of days, the implications of a deliberate widespread attack on the power grid for the East Coast, say, would cause devastation. Researchers have run the numbers on an East Coast blackout with these results:

A prolonged outage across 15 states and Washington, D.C., according to the University of Cambridge and insurer Lloyd’s of London, would leave 93 million people in darkness, cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars and cause a surge in fatalities at hospitals.

Another alarming aspect of a cyber attack is that the utility might not even realize what is happening:

At first, power providers may only notice a cascade of overloaded transmission lines failing in rapid succession—something that happened during the 2003 blackout, which was caused by an ordinary software bug. A major attack would trigger a series of actions laid out in the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council playbook, and even for regional blackouts, energy companies would begin communicating instantly.

But the assistance program may also run into difficulties with a cyber attack:

“If I’m sitting in Columbus, Ohio, and I know there’s a storm in Maryland, I’m not worried about sending my resources to Maryland,” said Stan Partlow, chief security officer at American Electric Power. “We’re pretty confident when we let those crews go that we’re not in trouble. On the cyber side, if I’ve sent my resources somewhere else and I’m next on the list…”

Although there are government agencies that are trained and equipped to deal with these kinds of attacks, they have few plans on how to prepare, since there have been so few major attacks on which to create response scenarios.

So I refer you to the opening paragraph in this OP. What happens when there is a devastating cyber attack and people run out of the basic necessities? What will we do when we are isolated, frightened and hungry? Or do you think these fears are exaggerated, as DHS suggests?

There are 67 comments.

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  1. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    RussiansAreComing

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Columbo:RussiansAreComing

    Yeah, that’s where my brain went, too. Only this isn’t so funny.

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Don’t be so sure it’s the Russians. I know about the COC rule on conspiracy but this could very easily be a false flag  affair by our  government. I wrote a post yesterday about the Obama regime using Russian hacking to take over the election system from the 50 states . The post is short but check out the comments.

    • #3
  4. Poindexter Member
    Poindexter
    @Poindexter

    Susan Quinn: Stores are closed. Cell service is failing. Broadband Internet is gone. Hospitals are operating on generators, but rapidly running out of fuel. Garbage is rotting in the streets, and clean water is scarce as people boil water stored in bathtubs to stop the spread of bacteria. And escape? There is none, because planes can’t fly, trains can’t run, and gas stations can’t pump fuel.

    I understand and agree that a cyber attack could create mischief, but the above paragraph looks just like the warnings we got prior to Y2K. Just like them. Of course it turned out that our tech industry was far less inept that was advertised. I suspect the same is true now regarding a “cyber threat”.

    • #4
  5. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    • #5
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I think we do not do enough. Every attack should be met with our own.

    The answer, of course, is the same answer that has always worked when attacked in this way:

    Letters of Marque

    Issue them against these cyber pirates, and let American Hackers have a field day, disrupting China and Russia. Heck, offer them to the citizens of India, Japan and South Korea. Just sit back and watch them fall to their knees. They will get the message. Vow that for every cyber attack on America, we will unleash 100 Letters of Marque, paying $100,000 each for every attack. (anonymous can tell us how this could all work, I hope – I am just painting with the broad strokes).

    I’d also say if anyone blacks out a city for a long time, that is a clear act of war, and we will use any and all means necessary to retaliate. By that I mean, you have better have nukes that can reach the US, because ours can reach you.

    (OH, I think we should use them against conventional pirates too)

    • #6
  7. Acook Member
    Acook
    @Acook

    Susan, How did you imagine people are boiling that water?

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Acook:Susan, How did you imagine people are boiling that water?

    Good point! Some will have camp stoves they can use for the short term. Some people have generators here in FL that will be good for a while. It’s not much, but it’s something!

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Columbo: When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    Oh, Columbo, you’re not linking me with Harry Reid are you? Arrrrggghhh!!!

    • #9
  10. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    PHCheese:Don’t be so sure it’s the Russians. I know about the COC rule on conspiracy but this could very easily be a false flag affair by our government. I wrote a post yesterday about the Obama regime using Russian hacking to take over the election system from the 50 states . The post is short but check out the comments.

    I want to go back and read this post when I get freed up, but saw your comment PH – you must of listened to Alex Jones today…..he is filling in on Fox and his show has been interesting (understatement!!!) – I drive around for work and was shocked – I don’t normally listen to him – he had Lord Byron on today – talking about Brexit – this is big and it’s a take no prisoners moment – for our country and the world –  it was surreal – not to mention headlines stating hacking to Ill and AZ is serious – they feel its a test run? What?? Who is doing that? Like you said, don’t assume (my #1 rule in life).

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    PHCheese:Don’t be so sure it’s the Russians. I know about the COC rule on conspiracy but this could very easily be a false flag affair by our government. I wrote a post yesterday about the Obama regime using Russian hacking to take over the election system from the 50 states . The post is short but check out the comments.

    It may not be–China, Iran, Korea–lots of countries would love to create chaos here. Take your pick.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bryan G. Stephens: I’d also say if anyone blacks out a city for a long time, that is a clear act of war, and we will use any and all means necessary to retaliate

    I guess my hope would be to stop it before it escalates. I’m not a conspiracy person, but my husband worked in the nuclear power industry with a sophisticated understanding of power plants. He thinks this is highly possible. Pirates, huh? Thanks, Bryan.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Poindexter: I understand and agree that a cyber attack could create mischief, but the above paragraph looks just like the warnings we got prior to Y2K. Just like them. Of course it turned out that our tech industry was far less inept that was advertised. I suspect the same is true now regarding a “cyber threat”.

    It does sound similar, doesn’t it Poindexter? Somehow I thought the panic then was overboard. The difference is that when the first of the year came, we knew it was overblown. But this will go on as a concern indefinitely. There is no end in sight. And it’s highly plausible. See my comment in #12.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    PHCheese:Don’t be so sure it’s the Russians. I know about the COC rule on conspiracy but this could very easily be a false flag affair by our government. I wrote a post yesterday about the Obama regime using Russian hacking to take over the election system from the 50 states . The post is short but check out the comments.

    Would you add the link, PH?

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat: Who is doing that? Like you said, don’t assume (my #1 rule in life).

    It sounds wild, doesn’t it, FSC. As I said, there could be all kinds of players who’d like to create havoc. It’s already happened on a small scale. And why should they worry in the short term? They don’t have to worry about Obama!

    • #15
  16. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo: When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    Oh, Columbo, you’re not linking me with Harry Reid are you? Arrrrggghhh!!!

    Certainly not! Dingy Harry’s presence only makes me skeptical about the issue.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Columbo:

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo: When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    Oh, Columbo, you’re not linking me with Harry Reid are you? Arrrrggghhh!!!

    Certainly not! Dingy Harry’s presence only makes me skeptical about the issue.

    Remember, he’s talking about a different hacking–of the elections. I’m talking about the hacking of our electrical grid. Big difference.

    • #17
  18. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo:

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo: When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    Oh, Columbo, you’re not linking me with Harry Reid are you? Arrrrggghhh!!!

    Certainly not! Dingy Harry’s presence only makes me skeptical about the issue.

    Remember, he’s talking about a different hacking–of the elections. I’m talking about the hacking of our electrical grid. Big difference.

    Very true.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Columbo:

    Remember, he’s talking about a different hacking–of the elections. I’m talking about the hacking of our electrical grid. Big difference.

    Very true.

    I’m glad you brought it up, though. I think people may read the title and think of Harry and the elections instead of the actual topic I’m describing. So I thank you!

    • #19
  20. Barkha Herman Member
    Barkha Herman
    @BarkhaHerman

    You mean you all are not prepped?

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Barkha Herman:You mean you all are not prepped?

    It’s a bit easier to get ready for those of us in FL! Watch out for Thursday–be safe, Barkha.

    • #21
  22. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Cyber battle with Russia? With China?  With North Korea?  Bring it.  I was born and raised in that briar patch.  To return to wreak havoc with the governments sanction, now that would be fun.  To don the black hat once again and ride out into the glory of cyber battle one last time, what joy.

    You over estimate the oppositions understanding of technology and their ability bend it.  Their hackers are cockroaches playing in the dark cracks of the net.  Irritating, annoying and potentially dangerous but no match for the light of the admins that hold the keys and pull the wires.  No in a cyberwar among nations the hackers of the third world lose.  They just do not have the processing power.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Fake John/Jane Galt: You over estimate the oppositions understanding of technology and their ability bend it. Their hackers are cockroaches playing in the dark cracks of the net. Irritating, annoying and potentially dangerous but no match for the light of the admins that hold the keys and pull the wires. No in a cyberwar among nations the hackers of the third world lose. They just do not have the processing power.

    I’m not talking about a long, drawn-out war, John. I’m talking about one nasty critical hit on our grid. You honestly don’t think they have some master hackers who could shut us down? And once we’re shut down, then what? They don’t all sit around and drink vodka all day long.

    • #23
  24. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo:

    Susan Quinn:

    Columbo: When old and decrepit Dingy Harry Reid is sent out as a “spokesman” for the democrat ‘distract them from Hillary’ news story of the day for the DNC-run media, my BS detector starts going wild.

    Oh, Columbo, you’re not linking me with Harry Reid are you? Arrrrggghhh!!!

    Certainly not! Dingy Harry’s presence only makes me skeptical about the issue.

    Remember, he’s talking about a different hacking–of the elections. I’m talking about the hacking of our electrical grid. Big difference.

    “They” may be planning on both – we should assume that –

    • #24
  25. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Our son has us preparing for several eventualities.  His ‘boss’ gave testimony to a congressional committee about the following:

    Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world, experts say.

    • #25
  26. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Wow.  If my link looks as weird to you as it does to me  . . . Sorry.

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat: “They” may be planning on both – we should assume that –

    I think that would be wise. I’m not suggesting we run around screaming, “The sky is falling,” but I believe we have to take the threat seriously, even if it’s not Russia. Thanks, FSC.

    • #27
  28. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Arm my neighbors.  Use my food and water supply slowly.  Kill every liberal I meet.  Eat them.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Trink:

    Our son has us preparing for several eventualities. His ‘boss’ gave testimony to a congressional committee about the following:

    Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world, experts say.

    I don’t think the link works, Trink. I’m very interested, though, if you can find it. Or I’ll try. Oh yes, I remember hearing about this!

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    DocJay:Arm my neighbors. Use my food and water supply slowly. Kill every liberal I meet. Eat them.

    Now THAT’S  plan!!

    • #30

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