Skip to comments.Power Grid Information Relating to Blackouts.
Posted on 08/14/2003 5:51:30 PM PDT by Gabrielle Reilly
My global recommendations are currently being reviewed by Dartmouth College in a project "taking a cross section of US political commentators on current events and evaluating their respective recommendations."
I asked one of the Professor's via email this question last week:
"I was wondering if you wouldn't mind briefly answering a question I have on a potential technology vulnerability related to Electronic System Control and Data Acquisition systems for me? Apparently the power is broken into six grids across the US and a vulnerability exists with the black e-SCADA boxes. What are your thoughts on that?"
"I must say you are well-informed on cybersecurity matters. As far as SCADA systems are concerned: A lot of the material is restricted (for the same reason that Sean German's PhD thesis at George Wash U is restricted) because of the ease with which malicious people (not necessarily terrorists) can exploit these systems for nefarious purposes. There are hundreds of vulnerabilities concerning SCADA systems, not just one - this is as much a design problem (different era - no one cared about security then) as it is the disconcerting rush with which we, as a society, choose to make our society's neuralgic points accessible to the wider public (China has explicit war manuals stating that our dependence on functioning electronic infrastructure will be our downfall in a war). The power grid is probably the lynchpin - because if that goes down, we do not really have a clear idea how to get it back up and running again (I am not a power engineer, this is what I have been told in private)
There have been incidents regarding dams, sewage treatment plants - in 2000, in Brisbane Australia, Vitek Boden, a disgruntled former employee of the company that had installed the computerized water system for Maroochy Shire Council, hacked into the sewage control computers and used radio transmissions to alter pump station operations. Raw sewage overflows were created on at least two occasions - at the Coolum Hyatt Regency Resort and at the nearby township of Pacific Paradise, where one million litres of raw sewage ended up in a stormwater drain.
The big scare is, as you have astutely pointed out, an attack against the power grid structure in the US. To my knowledge, this has never been carried out successfully (meaning grid collapse) to date. I include a link to a high level report we wrote about this in December 2002
(http://www.ists.dartmouth.edu/ISTS/ists_docs/cselectric.pdf). (Note this is a PDF).
Concerning the e-bomb: The ex Soviet Union was keenly aware of this fact, which is why when a defector arrived in the West in the mid 80s with a then top-of-the-line Mig-29, to their utter surprise, US engineers found that its flight guidance systems did not rely on IC (integrated circuits) but on vacuum tubes (like in old radios) - which would not be fried by an EMP during a nuclear explosion. Again, our electronic systems are much more delicate than widely acknowledged, so this type of attack will work. However, I think our saving grace is this: Baring an EMP effect from a nuclear detonation (in which case we are probably doomed anyway), 'conventional' e-bombs have to targeted to be effective - and not many nations/groups possess the means of accurate delivery."
Sorry if this is in the wrong section but thought people interested in WOT would be interested in this. It is probably nothing but interesting to note.
Could have been simple panic.
I don't think any hacking was required; the system was a LAN with no passwords to secure access.
Watching the people stranded in NY suggests that a small emergency kit, containing cash, flashlight, water and snacks, etc. would useful.