Sunday, February 9, 2014

The grid needs to be protected against physical attack, too

Original at The Wall Street Journal.

One of the actions mentioned in Applying Lessons Learned from One of the Biggest Blackouts in History from Georgia Tech, which I quoted in 2003 Blackout still being studied was "securing utilities from cyber attacks."  That's a necessary thing to do, but not all assaults on the grid have to be that high-tech.  Wire-cutters and rifles may be all that's required as Evan Halper and Marc Lifsher of the L.A. Times describe in Attack on electric grid raises alarm on February 6, 2014.
Damage to power station in shooting last year prompts worries over terrorism.

Shooters armed with assault rifles and some knowledge of electrical utilities have prompted new worries on the vulnerability of California's vast power grid.

A 2013 attack on an electric substation near San Jose that nearly knocked out Silicon Valley's power supply was initially downplayed as vandalism by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the facility's owner. Gunfire from semiautomatic weapons did extensive damage to 17 transformers that sent grid operators scrambling to avoid a blackout.

But this week, a former top power regulator offered a far more ominous interpretation: The attack was terrorism, he said, and if circumstances had been just a little different, it could have been disastrous.

Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the shooting took place, said that attack was clearly executed by well-trained individuals seeking to do significant damage to the area, and he fears it was a test run for an even larger assault.
Potential terrorism scenarios usually involve elaborate cyberattacks, expertly executed hijackings or smuggled nuclear weapons. But concern grows that California may have come unnervingly close to learning that calamity might just as easily be inflicted by a few well-trained snipers.
Rachel Maddow has a fuller explanation in Alarming attack on power grid goes unsolved.
Rebecca Smith, energy reporter for the Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about a sophisticated, mysterious attack on a California power station.
Unfortunately, that video doesn't seem to embed here, so you'll have to click on the link.

The upshot of all the above is that the smart grid certainly should guard against cyber attacks, but old-fashioned physical security would be a good idea, too.  Then again, what do I know?  I'm just a Crazy Eddie.

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