The Devastating Effects of a Cyber-Attack Against a Countries Energy Grid…(Prep, Muppets!!)
By Llewellyn King
Tue, 10 July 2012
Computer war has grown up. It has moved from the age of the equivalent of black powder to the equivalent of high-explosive shells — not yet nuclear devices but close.
Enemies with sophisticated computer technology, money and determination can now contemplate the possibility of taking down the electrical systems of large swaths of the nation. Just a small interruption in power supply is devastating; as has been demonstrated by the recent power outages in 10 states, caused by severe weather.
The world as we know it stops when power fails; gasoline cannot be pumped, air conditioning and all other household appliances cannot be used, plunging us into a dark age without the tools of a dark age – candles, firewood, horses and carts.
At the center of this vulnerability is a device most of us have never heard of but is an essential part of modern infrastructure. It is the programmable logic controller (PLC).
In appearance the PLC is usually a small, black box about the size of a woman’s purse. It came on the scene in the 1960s, when microprocessors became available and has grown exponentially in application and deployment ever since. The full computerization of the PLC put it silently but vitally in charge of nearly every commercial/industrial operation, from assembly lines to power dispatch.
These devices are the brain box of everything from air traffic systems to railroads. They replaced old-fashioned relays and human commands, and made automation truly automatic.
The revolution brought on by the PLC is an “ultra-important part” of the continuing story of technological progress, according to Ken Ball, an engineering physicist who has written a history of these devices.