When The Lights Go Out
Oct 21, 2013
There’s been lots of chatter lately about a long term grid down crisis which could hit the US. This chatter hasn’t been relegated exclusively to alternative news sites, it’s obvious the topic has gotten some traction when a former DHS Secretary speaks about the US’s vulnerability. This coupled with a massive Grid Down Exercise is being planned in November means you no longer need a tin foil hat to discuss this topic seriously. National Geographic has even filmed a movie based on the premise of a grid down scenario which is scheduled to air on October 27, 2013.
American Blackout imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless. Gritty, visceral and totally immersive, see what it might take to survive from day one, and who would be left standing when the lights come back on.
Most recently a report was issued by two researchers which detail how, with somewhat limited expertise, they could shut down the power grid.
“We haven’t found anything we haven’t broken yet,” Mr. Crain said in an interview. At minimum, the two discovered that they could freeze, or crash, the software that monitors a substation, thereby blinding control center operators from the power grid. Mr. Crain likened that capability to “a bank robber being in a bank vault with the camera frozen.”
In the case of one vendor, Mr. Crain found that he could actually infiltrate a power station’s control center from afar. An attacker could use that capability to insert malware to take over the system, and like Stuxnet, the computer worm that took out 20 percent of Iran’s centrifuges, inflict actual physical harm.
“This is low-hanging fruit,” said Mr. Crain. “It doesn’t require some kind of hacker mastermind to understand the protocol and do this.”
The Reality of the Situation