Who Turned the Lights Out: Imminent Threat to Electricity System Says US Energy Dept.

Media Division | January 9, 2017

Cyber attacks have the potential to threaten and damage extremely critical infrastructures within our country.  In regard to this magnitude of an attack, the United States Energy Department has warned that our power grid could be facing imminent danger from these types of attacks.  Although, grid operators say that they are already on top of addressing the issue.

The Energy Department warns that a cyber attack on our power grid could cause significant damages.  Bloomberg reports, “In the department’s landmark Quadrennial Energy Review, it warned that a widespread power outage caused by a cyber-attack could undermine “critical defense infrastructure” as well as much of the economy and place at risk the health and safety of millions of citizens.”

Recommendations of the Energy Department

The department gave 76 recommendations in regard to boosting energy, which included collecting data about online breaches from utilities.  They also called for extending tax credits to increase nuclear reactor construction.  The overall grid modernization will require an investment ranging from $350 billion to $500 billion, the report states.  While these costs are high, the reality is that the cost of damages, both financially and otherwise, brought about by these types of attacks could be incapacitating.

There was already a recent red flag from the power sector where a laptop containing suspicious internet activity was found at a Vermont electric utility.  The incident turned out to be a false alert for the most part, being that laptop had no connection to the grid, but the federal authorities had been alerted about the incident.  There have also been attacks upon Ukrainian power grids several times last year.  This in itself should serve as an example of the potential capabilities of cyber criminals to target attacks upon the electric system.

Awareness of Cybersecurity Issues Increases Significantly

These types of concerns in regard to cyber attacks and potential vulnerabilities have been arising frequently after the recent presidential election hacks by Russia.  The DNC hacks have led to increased vigilance overall in regard to cyber security.  While the circumstances that took place to bring this about are negative, the effort to improve cyber security in many different zones is a very positive movement.  While cyber security has always been of critical importance with our increasing reliance on cyberspace, it is finally getting the public and official attention that it should.

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