What happened to that hyped-up story about the Grid?
Last year an armed attack at a power substation in San Jose California emphasized the vulnerability of the U.S. Power Grid. The picture to the left shows footage when attackers broke into Pacific Gas & Electric Company and fired for 20 minutes using AK 47s destroying 17 out of 20 transformers. It took 27 days and roughly $16 million to repair the damage. The Wall Street Journal story emphasized how the attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred,” and considered whether the attack is a rehearsal for more ominous purposes which this video highlights.
The grid is a critical and complex part of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors (there are 16) made up of 3,200 utilities. The services supplied by the Energy Sector permeate commerce, health, welfare, communication and national security. Disruption to the energy supply whether from man-made or natural causes can have a profound impact on the population’s quality of life because of its scale, geographic reach, and interdependencies.
Because of its importance vulnerabilities to the systems have received high visibility including a report by the U.S. House of Representatives finding that cyber-attacks are commonplace, and the National Academy of Sciences noting that the greatest vulnerability to the grid are its SCADA systems and transformers. It seems that despite the grid’s fair amount of redundancy, there a few substations highly critical to its effective functioning. Therefore, an attack that disrupted power across a wide geographic region and for an extended period could impose cost in the billions and endanger the Nation’s welfare.
What’s more concerning is that one year later, no one has been arrested although Pentagon experts have concluded that professionals caused the damage. Fearmongering even suggest that ISIS is going to attack the grid through dealings with the Mexican Knights Templar Cartel?
Behind all the hype and different narratives, there are valid concerns raised by Congress asking for minimum standards for the physical security of substations and other critical links in the electric system. Nevertheless, despite all the hype and calls for action, there needs to be greater coordination among industry and government building on guidance from the National Infrastructure Protection Plan.