electrical grid

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Former CIA Director: We're Not Doing Nearly Enough To Protect Against The EMP Threat

It's a BIG risk. And we're doing little about it.
Sunday, June 7, 2015, 11:33 AM

On Monday we covered the release of an open letter written to President Obama, issued by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts  -- which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others -- on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP).

This week, we've been fortunate enough to get several of the authors of that open letter to join us and explain in depth what they conclude needs to be done to protect against the EMP risk: former CIA Director and current Ambassador James Woolsey, Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry, and security industry entrepreneur Jen Bawden. » Read more

Featured Discussion

How Solar Rooftop Installations Can Protect America's Energy Security

How Solar Rooftop Installations Can Protect America's Energy Security

Save energy. Create jobs. Protect from 'grid-down' threat. Just don't hold your breath...

Insider

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Reducing Your Risk To A Grid-Down Event

Small steps today can make a huge difference tomorrow
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 11:38 PM

Executive Summary

  • The most likely forms of cyber attack the national grid is vulnerable to
  • The evidence that shows malicious attacks on the US grid have been attempted multiple times
  • The low level of integrity in the current grid's defenses
  • A checklist of backup systems at the home level every concerned citizen should work to have in place

If you have not yet read Part 1: The Electrical Grid May Well Be The Next War's Battlefield available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Cyber Attacks, Hacking, and Malware

The other main threat we should concern ourselves with centers on the highly automated nature of the electricity grid combined with the human propensity for mischief. As with everything these days, computer-controlled devices are at the heart of the entire electrical generation and distribution system.

Again from the same Peak Prosperity member quoted earlier:

Combine this with the known vulnerabilities of the SCADA [Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition] systems controlling the power grid and you have the recipe for a real coordinated and manufactured disaster.

US researchers have identified 25 zero-day vulnerabilities in industrial control SCADA software from 20 suppliers that are used to control critical infrastructure systems. Attackers could exploit some of these vulnerabilities to gain control of electrical power and water systems, according to Wired.com.

Nine of these potential exploits have so far been reported to the suppliers concerned and the US Department of Homeland Security.

In theory, an intruder could exploit the vulnerabilities simply by breaching the wireless radio network over which the communication passes to the server.

Unlike the "heartbleed" zero-day bug that could be more or less addressed by software server patches, the SCADA systems are hardware boxes sitting out in the field. It's quite possible they are not upgradeable, or they were made by companies no longer in business, or whose programmers no longer support the system any more. "Uh, you want me to come up with a patch for THAT old system? Really? The guy who knew that code retired 10 years ago. I'm not even sure we have the source code anymore - or if it compiles - or if our build system can even compile for that CPU-type. And then we have to test it. We don't have any of those boxes to test it on anymore. And once tested, how exactly do we deploy this patch?"

If you've ever worked in a software organization, you'll know what I'm talking about.

No need to launch any supersonic missiles. If the US power grid is down, the US Navy won't be projecting power anywhere, since we'll be so busy trying to keep our people alive (and/or deploying what forces we have available into our own cities to prevent all those people who can't use their EBT cards anymore from tearing the place apart) to worry about what Russia is doing in their own backyard.

So - yes, asymmetric warfare. A coordinated cyber-assault supported with a kinetic attack on a select group of substations will...

Blog

The Demise of the Car

Doomed by escalating oil and infrastructure costs
Monday, August 20, 2012, 11:37 AM

India’s recent series of power blackouts, in which 600 million people lost electricity for several days, reminds us of the torrid pace at which populations in the developing world have moved onto the powergrid. Unfortunately, this great transition has been so rapid that infrastructure has mostly been unable to meet demand. India itself has failed to meets its own power capacity addition targets every year since 1951. This has left roughly one quarter of the country’s population without any (legal) access to electricity. That’s 300 million people out of a population of 1.2 billion. Indeed, it is the daily attempt of the underserved to access power that may have led to India’s recent grid crash.

But the story of India’s inadequate infrastructure is only one part of the difficult, global transition away from liquid fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the majority of new energy demand has been met not through global oil, but through growth in electrical power.

Frankly, this should be no surprise. After all, global production of oil started to flatten more than seven years ago, in 2005. And the developing world, which garners headlines for its increased demand for oil, is running mainly on coal-fired electrical power. There is no question that the non-OECD countries are leading the way as liquid-based transport – automobiles and airlines – have entered longterm decline.

Why, therefore, do policy makers in both the developing and developed world continue to invest in automobile infrastructure? » Read more