Double threat: US grid vulnerable on two fronts

Consensus is growing that the U.S. electricity grid is vulnerable to both hacking and physical attacks, but protecting it remains a work in progress—especially given the spending that would be necessary by financially stretched utilities.

M. Granger Morgan, the head of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told CNBC that a physical attack on the grid poses a “much greater threat” than a cyberattack. Still, he added that vulnerabilities within the technological network of the power system itself require “real and urgent attenuation.”

“If they could gain access, hackers could manipulate [control and data] systems to disrupt the flow of electricity…block the flow of vital information, or disable protective systems,” says the NAS report, adding that a successful attack could “entail costs of hundreds of billions of dollars,” and could render entire swaths of the country helpless to extreme weather.

Engineers have warned for years that the nation’s power grid is vulnerable to potential foul play. Even as many doubt a cyberattack alone would prove crippling, a combination of both a physical and a technological attack could wreak havoc and prove economically destabilizing.

An attack involving firearms on a San Jose, Calif.-based power station in April, initially dismissed as vandalism, has more recently seen investigators referring to a “higher level of planning and sophistication,” according to a report in Foreign Policy magazine. The incident was recently referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Full article: Double threat: US grid vulnerable on two fronts (CNBC)

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