Governments worldwide have been concerned about terrorism since before the term was even coined, and, if you believe the news media, the world is getting worse and worse on almost a daily basis. Whether we are talking about shootings at night clubs and concerts or running over people with a truck or bombs at a marathon, terrorists seem to have one goal: to cripple the society that they are attacking.
From the time that computers gained common usage, those with evil intent have been set upon using them against other people either by hacking or cyberterrorism. Of course, cyberterrorism wouldn’t really be anything more than an inconvenience if computers weren’t connected to vital aspects of a nation’s infrastructure. You know, simple things like nuclear power plants and the power grid.
Unfortunately, cyberterrorists have finally found a way to attack the power grid in a major city. The city is not in the U.S., but it should concern us, just the same. Daniel Jennings writes,
“A widely feared nightmare scenario has finally occurred, although in another country — hackers were able to cause a widespread power failure in the Ukraine by infecting utilities’ computers with malware.
“It is the first time a cyberattack has caused a widespread blackout anywhere in the world.
“Half of the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of the Ukraine lost electricity because of a malicious software program called Black Energy.
“’It’s a milestone because we’ve definitely seen targeted destructive events against energy before — oil firms, for instance — but never the event which causes the blackout,’ John Hultquist of the cybersecurity firm iSIGHT told Ars Technica. ‘It’s the major scenario we’ve all been concerned about for so long.’
“Ukrainians lost power Dec. 23 after computers at three different utilities were infected with Black Energy. The program caused the blackout by somehow disconnecting a number of substations from the grid.
“’This is the first time we have proof and can tie malware to a particular outage,’ Trend Micro senior researcher Kyle Wilhoit told Reuters. ‘It is pretty scary.’”
If you’ve thought about this, you know how quickly this kind of situation could turn ugly. Hospitals without power. Police and fire stations without power. Telephone and internet providers without power, so these services could be down as well as municipal water sources (no power = no pumps). I’ve been through a water outage before. I don’t recommend it.
If this doesn’t scare you enough, then consider what Tricia Dreverts wrote,
“Despite federal orders to secure the power grid, tens of thousands of substations are still vulnerable to saboteurs,’ writes WSJ reporter Rebecca Smith in the July 14, 2016 edition. ‘The U.S. electric system is in danger of widespread blackouts lasting days, weeks or longer through the destruction of sensitive, hard-to-replace equipment. Yet records are so spotty that no government agency can offer an accurate tally of substation attacks, whether for vandalism, theft or more nefarious purposes.’
“Smith reviewed dozens of reports of break-ins at power stations, including one last year at an electrical substation in Bakersfield, Calif. She discovered that despite federal orders to secure them, the nation’s tens of thousands of substations are vulnerable to attack.
“Many substations have little to no security – sometimes only a chain-link fence – and if there is an alarm system in place, the alarms are often ignored.”
What this means is that the U.S. is very vulnerable to attacks on power stations, and the results of power station attacks, historically, is not pretty, either. Daniel Jennings notes multiple incidents over the last 40 years of civil unrest and riots connected with widespread power outages.
So, not only can power outages mean danger to our most vulnerable, the sick and elderly, who are dependent on electricity for life-giving medical devices, but power outages also mean that the rest of us are threatened, too.
For your own safety, you may want to consider alternate power sources for your home so that your family has the power that it needs and so that you don’t have to leave and be effected by the potential violence caused by civil unrest.
How do you plan to handle an extended power outage situation? Comment below.