Thursday, February 6, 2014

They are keeping it quiet. Attack on the grid.

Turns out cyber security might not be the biggest threat to the power grid after all. What is going on? Sudden unexpected events are inevitable in this period of crises where we have the refusal of the leaders of the workers mass organizations to provide an alternative, and the left groups hamstring with sectarianism and lack of resources. See below a report which recently appeared on the internet.  

One of the most significant acts of domestic terrorism involving the power grid took place last Spring in Northern California and you probably didn’t even know about it. I surely didn’t.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, last April, in the middle of the night, snipers opened fire for almost 20 minutes on a substation next to a freeway south of San Jose, California, and knocked out seventeen transformers that direct power around Silicon Valley. They also cut the nearby telephone cables. It took a month to fix all the damage — the attackers are still unknown.
Image (1) powergrid151.jpg for post 76421
The former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff — who now works for the law firm Stoel Rives — has been trying to bring attention to the incident because he thinks it could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger coordinated attack on the U.S. power grid. Shortly after the event occurred, Wellinghoff — who was still FERC Chairman at the time — took a group from the U.S. Navy’s Dahlgren Surface Warfare Center in Virginia (which trains Navy SEALs) to investigate the scene and they determined it was a professional job.
Wellinghoff thinks that a larger coordinated attack could be so detrimental that it could lead to widespread blackouts across the U.S. Not everyone agrees with him, though, and others quoted in the Wall Street Journal article think the grid is more resilient.
Still, much of the discussion around grid security in recent years has been focused on cyber attacks. The idea is that as more and more digital technology, wireless networks, and software are added to the grid, the more the grid is vulnerable to the type of hacking that plagues the Internet. But perhaps the real grid vulnerabilities still lie in the actual physical systems.

1 comment:

DW said...

Richard, this is a fascinating subject. When I worked for PG&E in their Potrero Power Plant, operators such as myself always speculated the ease in which this could be done. Of course the key question is whether they know what they are shooting at or shooting randomly at "transformers". This scenerio of shooting transmission and distribution tranformers was what lead to the banning to the .50 cal sniper rifle produced by Barrett Rifle Company and a few other companies.

In fact you don't need a .50 cal at all, but the smaller calibers still legal will do the job just fine, only one has to be closer to do this.

There is little defense against this from of anti-techno-terrorism (assuming it's anti-tech nuts doing this) or more politically motivated terrorists. Quite honestly, the major transmission lines are more vulnerable as they are usually in the middle of no where and you don't need a rifle to sabotage it, just a cutting torch and few things like wrenches and crow bars.

Interesting and scary topic.
Rifles and other companies.