The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

An En­ergy Depart­ment-spon­sored study of the U.S. elec­tri­cal power grid pub­licly iden­ti­fies nu­mer­ous vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to cy­ber­at­tacks by na­tions or ter­ror­ists, in­clud­ing hack­ing that could cause wide­spread power out­ages.

“Im­pacts iden­ti­fied in the fail­ure sce­nar­ios in­clude loss of power, equip­ment dam­age, hu­man ca­su­al­ties, rev­enue loss, vi­o­la­tions of cus­tomer pri­vacy, and loss of pub­lic con­fi­dence,” states the 269-page re­port “Elec­tric Sec­tor Fail­ure Sce­nar­ios and Im­pact Anal­y­ses.”

The re­port was funded by the En­ergy Depart­ment and pub­lished in Septem­ber by the Na­tional Elec­tric Sec­tor Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Or­ga­ni­za­tion Re­source, a group of in­dus­try and aca­demic spe­cial­ists fo­cused on im­prov­ing cy­ber­se­cu­rity for net­works in the power grid.

The highly tech­ni­cal re­port out­lines more than 40 ways for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices or other ma­li­cious hack­ers could break into the net­works used to con­trol the dis­tri­bu­tion of elec­tri­cal power.

One threat sce­nario states that a cat­a­strophic power out­age could be caused by an in­sider with ac­cess to elec­tri­cal con­trol net­works.

By send­ing a com­puter or­der for mass “re­mote dis­con­nects” in the power grid, the cut­offs would pro­duce a cas­cad­ing power fail­ure over a large ge­o­graph­i­cal area.

The re­port is de­signed to give both in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment a com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment of the weak­nesses within elec­tronic power grid net­works. It also rec­om­mends ways to pre­vent cy­ber­at­tacks, in­clud­ing the use of stronger pass­words and bet­ter net­work ac­cess con­trols.

“Au­tho­rized per­son­nel with le­git­i­mate ac­cess can in­flict sig­nif­i­cant dam­age on a sys­tem ei­ther in­ten­tion­ally or by mis­take,” the re­port said. “The im­pact for this sce­nario could range from a mi­nor sys­tem be­ing off-line to a wide­spread out­age of un­known du­ra­tion.”

Among those who pose threats are em­ploy­ees or con­trac­tors who may be bribed by for­eign spy agen­cies, for­mer em­ploy­ees seek­ing re­venge, de­ranged peo­ple and cy­ber gangs.

Na­tion-state and ter­ro­ror­ism threats iden­ti­fied in the re­port in­clude China, North Korea, Cuba, al Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Tal­iban, Pak­istan’s Lashkar-e-Taibi and the Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist group Ha­mas.

Do­mes­ti­cally, the re­port warned that cy­ber­at­tacks could be car­ried out by lone wolf ter­ror­ists, ecoter­ror­ists and U.S. sep­a­ratist groups and mili­tias.

The U.S. elec­tronic power grid is a re­gional sys­tem of three net­works in the 48 con­ti­nen­tal states: The East­ern In­ter­con­nected Sys­tem, the Western In­ter­con­nected Sys­tem, and the Texas In­ter­con­nected Sys­tem.

The re­port was first dis­closed by smart­grid­news. com on Oct. 17.


On Tues­day, NSA Di­rec­tor Keith B. Alexan­der (above) ap­pealed for con­tin­ued NSA spy­ing that he said is vi­tal for pro­tect­ing against ter­ror­ist at­tacks and other threats. “When we get to­gether, we don’t whine,” he said. “Well, maybe a cou­ple of times . ... But we ac­tu­ally say it is much more im­por­tant for this coun­try that we de­fend this na­tion and take the beat­ings than it is to give up a pro­gram that would re­sult in this na­tion be­ing attacked.”

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