23 July 2012

Are Chinese Hackers Smarter than a Tree Limb?

Large portions of the US power grid were taken down by storm-downed trees and tree limbs recently. Thanks to prompt action by electrical workers from over a dozen states, power was restored to almost all customers within a matter of days. But the North American power grid is vulnerable to a growing threat far more dangerous than falling tree limbs. Read on:
The vulnerability of the energy industry's new wireless smart grid will inevitably lead to lights out for everyone, according to leading cyber expert David Chalk. In an online interview for an upcoming documentary film entitled 'Take Back Your Power' (www.ThePowerFilm.org), Chalk says the entire power grid will be at risk to being taken down by cyber attack, and if installations continue it's only a matter of time.

“This could actually be worse than a nuclear war, because it would happen everywhere. How governments and utilities are blindly merging the power grid with the Internet, and effectively without any protection, is insanity at its finest.” “We're in a state of crisis,” said Chalk. “The front door is open and there is no lock to be had. There is not a power meter or device on the grid that is protected from hacking - if not already infected - with some sort of trojan horse that can cause the grid to be shut down or completely annihilated.” _BusinessWire

Speaking at DesignWEST panel on hacking the smart grid, senior research engineer Joe Loomis blasted through the buzz on smart grid and smarter energy technology, exposing the risks of hacking and full scale cyber warfare and the crippling effects it could have on national infrastructure.

“It’s critical infrastructure and society depends on it, making it a prime target for attack,” said Loomis.

Indeed, as smart grid technology develops year by year, so too do the opportunities for hackers with malicious intentions on national infrastructure. _EETimes

The FBI warns that insiders and individuals with only a moderate level of computer knowledge are likely able to compromise meters with low-cost tools and software readily available on the Internet. _Hacking the smart grid
Tools to help utilities monitor the extent of malicious penetration into their systems are just now becoming more available. But we know that in the ongoing war between hackers and security officials, the hackers are typically at least one step ahead.

The new "smart grid" would also be a sitting duck for EMP attacks.

The power grids of the US and Canada are interconnected, and thus share a large co-vulnerability. Large numbers of malicious hackers operate in Russia, China, and other nations which are typically antagonistic toward more open opportunity societies. By pushing "smart grids," the US and Canadian governments appear to be forcing utilities and other critical infrastructure to open their doors to hackers and malicious cyber-attacks.

It is likely to take months or longer to restore the power grid after a large scale cyber- or EMP attack on very vulnerable "smart grids."

The body count after such a widespread power outage could be well into the millions.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming, WB Yeats

Understanding what holds things together, and how they fall apart, is one of the most important tasks for members of the Society for Creative Apocalyptology.

There is only so much that small groups of people -- no matter how dedicated -- can do for very large societies that seem determined to commit suicide. But such groups can take steps to see that they have certain advantages when emerging on the other side.

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Blogger Eric said...

If memory serves, North-East Utilities had cut their budget by something like 26% before this happened. This was avoidable.

We've had problems with things as mundane as squirrels causing massive outages before, google search brings up a long list:

This is a map of the grid:

The SCADA systems shouldn't be this vulnerable, if it wasn't for the fact that they are hooking up the SCADA systems to the internet:

Overall, it's a question of when, not if.

Monday, 23 July, 2012  
Blogger Eric said...

Cut their tree trimming budget by 26%, I mean't to say.

Monday, 23 July, 2012  
Blogger neil craig said...

When NATO used graphite bombs against Yugoslav power generators (the graphite shorts out the generator and turns it to scrap) it probably caused a number of deaths but not anythibg approaching millions. I think that estimate must assume Americans incapable of a bit of ingenuity, which is probably overly pessimistic.

Thursday, 26 July, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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