For every security measure the government takes regarding the electrical grid, there’s a group of hackers out there that have the knowledge and persistence necessary to get by any deterrent. When the vulnerable system in question contains controls to power sources for the entire United States, understanding these vulnerabilities and preparing for the worst is essential.
Consequences of an Attack on the Electrical Grid
The consequences of an attack on the electrical grid of the United States would clearly be catastrophic, but what would the damage truly entail? First, it is important to understand that the aftermath would be felt by individuals, businesses and government entities. While the first thing on the minds of Americans may be the sudden loss of electricity and Internet connection, these minor annoyances are clearly not the biggest concerns to be considered.
Think about recent incidents that have involved massive blackouts in a major metropolitan area. For example, the Northeast blackout of 2003 affected several major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Even though the blackout lasted less than 24 hours, the time spent without electricity impacted over 50 million people and traffic accidents, fires and a loss of access to safe drinking water resulted.
Since the blackout was not caused maliciously, it can be assumed that a malicious attack on the electrical grid would have much more dire consequences. Not only would the extent of the loss of power have a greater reach, but it is more likely that hackers would force the power to be shut down for a significant period of time. Traffic issues, problems with accessing food and drinking water, fires resulting from candles used for light and the possibility of people being trapped in elevators and upper floors of skyscrapers are a real concern.
Approaching the Threat Proactively
While the government will need to address major concerns, individuals have the ability to take a proactive stance against the aftermath of electrical grid hacks. The first step is to request that the government on the local, state and federal level increases security.
Since the results of such a request are left up to the government entities, individuals can put a plan into place in case a threat to the electrical grid is actually executed. Avoiding common mistakes during an electrical outage is important. Many of the fatalities that are experienced during power outages are due to fires caused by candles and carbon monoxide poisoning that can be sourced to generators. Use these sources of energy wisely to avoid danger, and keep a basic store of clean drinking water and nonperishable food sources available in case of an emergency.
A Final Note: It’s Already Happened
Some readers may be under the impression that the information discussed in the article above has little basis in reality. After all, the government must be protecting the electrical grid enough so that hackers will never be able to breach the security measures, right? The truth is that there have been security breaches involving the electrical grid in the past.
In 2003, a nuclear power plant in Ohio was forced to shut down for a five-hour stretch after an attack of its computer systems. An attack in April 2009 that originated primarily in China and Russia resulted in the implantation of malicious software in the U.S. electrical grid. This is just a small sampling of hacks that have occurred in relation to parts of the electrical grid in the United States.
The good news is that these breaches have prompted an increase in security that may help stop future attacks.
This article is provided by TrainACE who provides certified ethical hacker courses to train individuals how to secure and protect computer systems.