US power grid vulnerable to cyber attacks

Pierluigi Paganini July 04, 2015

The former Secretary of Defense William Cohen revealed that the US power grid is vulnerable to terror attacks, a major cyber attack was a matter time.

Security experts and US politicians are aware that the power grid is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Nation’s power grid is a privileged target for terrorists as explained by the former Secretary of Defense William Cohen:

“It’s possible and whether it’s likely to happen soon remains to be seen,” said Cohen on Monday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

A major attack on the power grid would cause chaos in the country by interrupting vital services for the population, the former government official said. Not only cyber attacks are threatening the vulnerable power grid, natural disasters, such as the solar storm known as the Carrington Event, could also interfere or disrupt the power delivery system nationwide.

Terrorists have several options to hit a power grid, from a cyber attack on SCADA systems to an EMP attack, according to Cohen.

“You can do it through cyber attacks, and that’s the real threat coming up as well. We have to look at cyber attacks being able to shut down our power grid, which you have to remember is in the private sector’s hands, not the government’s. And we’re vulnerable,” Cohen added. “It’s possible and whether it’s likely to happen soon remains to be seen.”

“That’s because the technology continues to expand and terrorism has become democratized. Many, many people across the globe now have access to information which allows them to be able to put together a very destructive means of carrying out their terrorist plans. We’re better at detecting than we were in the past. We’re much more focused in integrating and sharing the information that we have, but we’re still vulnerable and we’ll continue to be vulnerable as long as groups can operate either on the margins or covertly to build these kind of campaigns of terror.” said Cohen.

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shared the same Cohen’s concerns, a major cyber attack the power grid was a matter of “when,” not “if.”

State-sponsored hackerscyber terrorists are the main threat actors, but as confirmed by a recent research conducted by TrendMicro, also the cybercrime represents a serious menace.

Former senior CIA analyst and EMP Task Force On National Homeland Security Director, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, told Newsmax TV that a cyber attack against the power grid could cause serious destruction and losses of lives.

Not only US power grid are under attack, In January 2015 the British Parliament revealed that UK Power Grid is under cyber attack from foreign hackers, but the emergency is for critical infrastructure worldwide.

ICS-CERT critical infrastructure 2 power grid


Arbuthnot confirmed the incessant attacks on national critical infrastructure and he doesn’t exclude a major incident despite the enormous effort spent at the National Grid.

“Our National Grid is coming under cyber-attack not just day-by-day but minute-by-minute,” Arbuthnot, whose committee scrutinized the country’s security policy, told a conference in London last year. “There are, at National Grid, people of very high quality who recognize the risks that these attacks pose, and who are fighting them off,” he said, “but we can’t expect them to win forever.”

The power grid is a vital system for our society and the cyber strategy of every government must consider its protection a high priority, a terror attack would leave entire countries sitting in the dark.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – power grid, cyber security)

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