Utilities, large corporations and the federal government are so worried about the power grid going down for weeks or months that they are planning a massive drill to test the response to such a scenario – and former US Sen. Byron L. Dorgan says the fears are very real.
Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, is currently on a book tour promoting his latest action thriller, Gridlock, which features a plot to destroy the grid.
“I think that we are vulnerable, and it’s not just me, it’s the National Science Foundation and a number of people in the energy industry,” Dorgan, 71, told The New York Times. “‘Glass jaw’ is a pretty good description of the grid system, honestly.”
Byron Dorgan served 12 years in the House of Representatives and 18 years in the Senate before retiring.
In the novel, Iranian agents, working with Venezuela, buy a thumb drive from a Russian engineer for $1 million. The drive has a computer virus which, when enabled, shuts down all electrical power in the US, one section at a time. Iran and Venezuela are “intent on destroying the present world order and bringing an arrogant America to its knees,” according to a book summary.
But Dorgan is hardly the latest Washington bigwig to warn of such a threat. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told reporters that it is only a matter time before such an attack occurs.
“Our country will, at some point, face a major cyber event that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy and everyday functioning of our society,” Janet Napolitano said in a speech to the National Press Club.
Federal government to take part in drill
The drill will include what The Times calls “a simulated attack by an adversary that takes down large sections of the power grid and knocks out vast areas of the continent for weeks.” As previously reported by Off The Grid News, organizations participating in the drill will include major utilities, Verizon, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The disruptions the drill are intended to deal with will be far larger and more destructive than those experienced on Sept. 11.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the current U.S. electrical grid a grade of D+ when it evaluated the system for security and other vulnerabilities. The society noted that efforts to add smart grid technology and increased use of new technologies such as electric cars actually make the grid more vulnerable to hacking.
Fueling stations for electric cars could easily be hacked as could new transmission lines and other equipment, the engineers say.
So how vulnerable is the grid anyway?
The grid is a complex network that is controlled by thousands of different computers, almost all of which are connected to the Internet. That means they’re vulnerable to hacking.
We know that there are cyber weapons that can destroy machinery in the real world. The Stuxnet worm created by American and Israeli intelligence agencies was able to damage the physical infrastructure at an Iranian nuclear facility. Stuxnet has been floating around the Internet for several years, and it could easily be captured and copied by the bad guys.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever seen a threat that can change how machinery works,” said Liam O’Murchu of the computer security company Symantec. “So it’s very innovative and it’s a real change in the threat landscape from that point of few.”
Something to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be an enemy government or terrorists that launch a cyber-attack on the power grid. Any capable hacker out to wreak havoc could do it for a wide variety of reasons.
Prepare Your Family Now
Average Americans should take the warnings about the grid’s vulnerability seriously and prepare. The grid’s insecurity makes it imperative that those of us who like the idea of living a modern lifestyle take measures to produce our own electricity.