Skip to comments.How will an electrical grid cyber attack manifest itself?
Posted on 10/19/2011 6:40:27 AM PDT by Any Fate But Submission
One objective might be significant damage to a coal/oil fired plant that provides electricity to the Grid. How would they do that?
A simple example would be my electric tea pot at home. Every morning I fill the tea pot with water and turn it on. When the water comes to a boil, I turn it off and pour the water into a cup. My tea pot has a mechanical on-off switch but if I leave it on, the water boils out and the overheat safety switch automatically turns it off. If it was controlled by a computer a cyber attack could turn it on late at night and disable the safety switch such that the tea pot would destroy itself and maybe start a fire.
To get the control codes for key equipment they send a virus into the manufacturer who makes the equipment. They find out in which plants that particular equipment is installed and steal the codes to incorporate them into their attack. That is what the Israelis did to destroy centrifuges in Iran with the Stuxnet virus. This is what our enemies are doing right now, this very minute.
Back to our power plant. They now have codes to some of the operating systems/equipment of the power plant. One of the many things they could do is disable the pressure control systems and the safety switches as well as have the system show on the control panels that it is at a normal 3,000 psi when it is really way past 5,000 psi and explodes. By controlling the control system the operators of the plant would never know there was a problem until the explosion.
My tea pot can be replaced for $12 at Wal-Mart but replacement of a huge boiler might take 6 months or more. There would be no electricity from that plant until then.
Now, what if most, if not all, of the power plants in the USA were severely damaged simultaneously such that most of the USA was without electricity for months? Think about 6 months of life without water from the tap, heat, AC, lights, internet, computers, cell phones, 911, GPS, credit cards, ATM, refrigeration, stove/oven, gas stations (no cars, trucks, or trains), street lights, radio/tv, fire, police, and the stock market. Hospitals, etc. have perhaps 72 hours fuel for their emergency generators, then what? How much cash in your wallet because cc won't work?
98% of the population has less than 1 day of water on hand and less than 30 days of food on hand. What then? Desperation, panic, and starving mobs. Think the horror of death, destruction, rape, torture, murder, starvation and disease.
Dont be a victim. Store a years supply of food per person and have access to an unlimited quantity of clean water. Oh yeah, be able to hide yourselves and your food from the starving mobs who will kill you for it.
. OK, maybe not so well, but you can sleep a whole lot better knowing your family will not starve. Remember, it is not about you, it is about your children and grandchildren who rely on you for your foresight and wisdom. Start today, right now, buy a shopping cart full of canned goods, rice, etc and develop a place to hide it. Keep it secret, very very secret. (If you store food secretly you do not have to feel foolish or embarrassed about storing food because no one else will know, so go ahead, its OK).
The 5 events?
Cyber attack: This could happen any time
1859 type solar flare: Only a matter of time
Pandemic (1918 type): Only a matter of time
EMP: Iran's space program is well under way, they have two satellites now at 250 miles high and are working to increase pay load.
Multiple Nuked US cities (and the resulting national panic): The Russian Club K container cruise missile system is being sold to Iran and Venezuela. A standard looking 40' container carries 4 cruise missiles, nuke capable, with a 250 mile range flying below radar. They can be launched from a ship, truck or train. If landed in Mexico they could be moved anywhere in the USA. Or, from a boat, the missiles from only one container could take out Philly, Boston, NY and DC. With this system now available to those who want to destroy us and the nuclear genie way out of the bottle, it really is only a matter of time.
“Smart Grids” will make hacking the grid much easier.
I worked in IT for one of the largest utility companies in America and can tell you the risk is very high.
That’s all I’m going to say about that...
Remember the Northeast Blackout?
It would look the same.
Read up on “Stuxnet” to learn in very intimate detail how this will be done, because it already has been, in Iran. Over 85% of critical infrastructure in this country is controlled by the same kind of SCADA systems, which are vulnerable to cyberattack. Even the CIA admits “test attacks” have already been launched successfully, as early as 2008.
The present grid was largely built over 50 years ago out of components such as large oil-filled transformers that have built-in aging and failure mechanisms that are already well past their design lifetime, and in many cases, overloaded or at capacity due to massive expansion of electrical demand. The grid is at risk of failure without cyberattack, whether dumb or smart.
How would someone living in a city have access to unlimited water?
It will come from the EPA, they will regulate a harmless substance and require immediate shut down of all coal fired plants and then...domino.
Every automated control system I’ve ever built has a safety shut down circuit which functions completely independent of the computer controls. It’s populated with the simplest, most robust, completely mechanical sensors, switches and actuators which positively shut the system down in the event of a hazardous situation or loss of control.
Hopefully, I am not unique in this.
You will need a water filtration system - they are not expensive.
Most cities are located on rivers - you get a 5-gallon pail full and take it back to your house and treat/filter it.
You will need to do that every day - just like in olden times....
You really think someone on the 25th floor of a building in Phoenix could do that?
Where do you get a good water filter system?
How will an electrical grid cyber attack manifest itself?
To paraphrase George Carlin:
Dark, continued dark overnight, with scattered light by morning
Blackouts? Washing machines running backwards?
Ha, ha, the computers on the grid are shunt devices, not control devices. That is the monitor and record, they do not control, 75 percent of the power plants are really old equipment. How do I know, my nephew works at a plant that was built when I was about ten years old, he is almost ready to retire.
The first major obstacle is to find an oil fired power plant. Very little of our electrical power comes from petroleum and much of that comes from burning refinery left-overs like Petroleum Coke that is far closer to coal than oil.
One of the many things they could do is disable the pressure control systems and the safety switches
It is a lot harder to damage than this author imagines. Pressure safety systems include fail safes that do not require a computer to make a decision. Pressure Relief Valves operate on pressure alone and do need computers to make the decision for them to open, nor can the be prevented from opening by a computer input.
I can’t go into detail, but it is much easier then you would think to take large portions of the electrical grid down, without “hacking”. The thing is, unless you are talking something really catestrophic like a nuke, most of the grid would be brought back on line in days if not hours. There are some parts of the US that if one tower was brought down those people could be out of power for quite a while, but realize those people are in pretty rural areas anyway and can deal with loss of power easier then those in a big city.
My wife and I are lucky, we live real close to the coast and the biggest navy base in the world. If there’s a nuke war or 1000ft waves, it’ll be over for us pretty fast.
Cheaper Than Dirt website, or
just "Google" "preparedness supplies" or some such.
“How would someone living in a city have access to unlimited water?”
Set up a downspout from your gutter to a couple of 30 gallon plastic garbage cans. Cover the top with screening material to filter out the big stuff and then get a Big Berkey water filter to purify it. Once the electric goes off so will your tap.
You're not, but you aren't ubiquitous either.
IIRC, it was precisely one of these autonomous breakers that was a root cause of the big NE blackout of 1965...
All power plants have numerous pressure safety valves AND local gages to measure pressure AND experienced operators in the field monitoring plant conditions AND emergency trips not connected to the plant control network AND FERC does not allow Generators to connect plant control systems to a WAN.
I guess to sum things up, you're full of poop.
Large-scale result of massive cyber-attack? As another poster said, look to the Northeast Blackout of 1965. We lived near Syracuse, NY at the time and I remember it well.
That would work ok, unless you lived in a big apartment building.
But this article was imagining ways to damage the actual vessels, piping and the like.
The NE blackout tripped safety systems that prevented damage and allowed restarting by the next day.
Very different than what this tread topic implied. The risk is not that way.
Risk can’t be eliminated. Mechanical safeties fail too, but they’re the next best thing to leaving the big switch in the “Off” position.
Funny thing? The breaker that "caused" the '65 blackout did precisely what it was intended to do.
It protected the generators from pounding themselves to pieces when the load abruptly became grossly imbalanced.
I'll trade happily trade a couple dark nights for several months of getting new generators on line!
As you say.
If you haven’t yet, consider a system such as this site offers. Of course, if the worst happens and you’ve got a generator, make sure you have home defense, because you’ll need it when desperate people notice you have power.
Maybe look around for a zombie zapper, shake-and-bake styled electrified fence.
Traditional dog and lead combo is good too. :)
“That would work ok, unless you lived in a big apartment building”
Sadly in that case you will be pretty much SOL in the USA. When they talk about the first die off thats what they are talking about.
Too bad for anyone that’s not within walking distance of a river.
Just look at Duke(Kook) Energy - shut down an entire windmill plant ...for a freaking bat.
“Too bad for anyone thats not within walking distance of a river”
Even if you do live within walking distance of a river its going to be a real picnic making that walk everyday. Not to mention who you will run into on your way there and back. You would have to be fully armed and go in a group.
After a few days of no running water especially in an Apt building it will become basically unliveable. No sanitation and within a week or so there will be dysentary, then typhoid etc. due to no working toilets and the garbage piling up in the streets. Rats running everywhere.
Once the canned food runs out you will not have the water or any way to cook even rice or beans in an apt. At least in the burbs you could cook it out on the deck or in the back yard but the aroma would bring every unprepared neighbor right to your door.
Basically the people who will be able to weather the storm in some kind of normalcy will be in the rural areas.
Thanks so much.
Thanks so much.
I agree, and by virtue of being spread apart, they will be the most vulnerable to attack. It’ll be just like the good ole days...people will end up grouping together and it will all start over again.
I looked up whether water from a new roof was safe to drink even after treatment and got mixed answers. I would love to know definitively.
The catch is, you still want that water supply to be dependable when it is an old roof as well. Bird poop and the like means a filtration system.
Some hunger wisdom from around the world:
“Hunger is a poor advisor.”
“Hunger is the best cook.”
“Hunger sharpens anger.”
“Hunger teaches many things.”
“A hungry belly listens to no one.”
“A hungry dog does not fear the stick.”
“A hungry man has no conscience.”
“A hungry populace listens to no reason nor cares for justice.”
“Hunger and cold surrenders a man to his enemy.”
“The drums of war are the drums of hunger.”
“Enough is as good as a feast.”
“At the working mans house hunger looks in but dares not enter.”
“Hunger knows no friend but its feeder.”
Definitely some filtration is in order, but you can divert the first part of the rain in order to “wash” the roof, then collect the remainder as good water.
This divert wouldn’t have to be manual if you set up your system right with a vertical divert tube that fills up with water for discard and the overflow going to your collector.
I would still want water when there was only a little rain, or a lot of built up “dirt”, algae, etc.
After living in Texas this past year, I would not consider rain water a dependable source of backup water.
My parents living in Ohio have had just the opposite experience this year.
There’s a book called “One Second After” which addresses this
If you do not live in a rural area, all is not lost, though - as long as one works at continually improving their position - something is better than nothing.
We live at the edge of the suburbs (small house on 1/3 acre) and have little "extra" cash, but have used what we have wisely and have continually "improved our position" a little at a time.
I agree that the burbs are definitely a lot better than in-town in an apt or condo.