Much has been speculated about the possibility of a power grid failure and the role of the government in any such scenario. I am going to try to plow through the speculation. I would like to report on what is being said by both reliable sources and the fear porn industry. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I suspect to find some truth. Government mouthpieces are notorious for telling bold faced lies to the public to further their agendas. Sometimes one must look beyond the obvious and between the lines to discern the facts of any matter the government has chimed in on. At the same time, the fear porn industry feeds off of the fears of its' readers. Half-truths are blown way out of proportion. Some statements are just made up to gain a wider audience.
The New York Times published an article in October, 2013 that highlighted one possible cause of electrical grid failure. Two gentlemen, Adam Crain and Chris Sistrunk, discovered that the programs controlling remote power stations could be easily infiltrated. Actually, Mr. Crain wrote a program to look for weaknesses in a certain type of software that is used to monitor remote sub-stations by utility companies . This software allows diagnosis of malfunctions without actually being onsite. He was testing his program by using it on a program sold by Triangle MicroWorks, of Raleigh, North Carolina. This program is used by many large utility companies. In Mr.Crains' words "It broke instantly."
Mr. Crain then called Mr.Sistrunk, who is an electrical engineer. The two of them tested the utility program of 16 vendors that supply utility companies. They broke the systems with no trouble.They compiled a report about what they had found, and submitted it to the proper authorities. It took four months for the government to warn utility companies of this vulnerability to infiltration by attackers. A patch and recommendations have been issued, but very few companies are taking them seriously and performing the required precautions.
This is one type of problem with the US electrical grid that was both addressed by a national news organization and government action. It is pretty safe to say that this is a real concern, is not fear porn, and I see no hidden agenda. My next blog will focus on physical attacks to the utilities, and government response.