How Vulnerable Is The U.S. Power Grid To A Terrorist Attack?

According to the Associated Press, there have
been about a dozen of cases of foreign hackers hacking into the US’s power grid. In one,
Russian hackers were able to spy on U.S. energy companies by introducing malware into their
systems. In another case, Iranian hackers were allegedly able to get detailed plans
of power plants, and access passwords. As the world modernizes into the 21st century,
new technologies are being used to help, but also hurt. So, just how vulnerable is the
US power grid to terrorism? Well, the US’s infrastructure is not in
great shape. In 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US a D-plus for
infrastructure, and the same grade for the country’s energy system. The ASCE notes
that some of the electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems that make up America
were originally built more than one hundred and thirty years ago. This ageing infrastructure
means that in recent years there has been an increase in power failures, and the country’s
demand for electricity, natural gas, and oil will become a bigger and bigger problem as
the population rises. Unfortunately, this weakness has not been
missed by terrorist groups. As recently as late 2015, reports of ISIS attempting to hack
into US energy sources were confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security. And while
they have yet to succeed, a member of the FBI’s cyber division says that they are
concerned ISIS may try to buy better hacking software, or even recruit better hackers.
What’s worse is that it isn’t just ISIS. Domestic terrorists also may be able to access
the US’s failing infrastructure, and potentially do a lot of damage. But just how hard would it be for a terrorist
to knock out America’s power grid?

Well, according to a federal report leaked by the
Wall Street Journal, it would be pretty easy. While the US has roughly 55,000 power substations,
which route electricity produced by power plants, it would only take nine to disable
the entire grid. This could potentially create rolling blackouts countrywide, lasting a year
and a half, or even longer. In one scenario, terrorists could use an electromagnetic
pulse to disrupt electronic equipment, knocking out the power grid. According to former US
Representative Roscoe Bartlett, such an attack could cost between 1 and 2 trillion dollars,
and take as long as a decade to fix. These sorts of attack possibilities are not isolated
or unique. And while research groups have repeatedly
urged the government to protect the US power grid, there have also been some high tech
solutions to the problem. One idea is to implement “smart grids”, which automatically respond
to losses of power from substations, and could help with non-terror caused blackouts as well.
But whatever solutions are implemented, unless lawmakers invest heavily in American infrastructure,
the risk of collapse will always remain. The state of much of the US’s infrastructure
may be failing, but that doesn’t mean that some of those structures aren’t absolutely
mind-blowing. Check out this video to meet a young Infrastructure explorer who started
a fake club to gain access into a power plant. Thanks for watching TestTube News, make sure
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