Congress Considers Cyber Attack On Power Grid A ‘Pressing Domestic Security’ Issue

Power grid vulnerability is finally being heralded as a “pressing domestic security” concern in Congress. Current Congressional discussions appear to primarily be focusing on the threat of a cyber attack on the power grid, but the movement is still viewed as a step in the right direction by enlightened lawmakers and informed Americans alike. Tech expert Adam Crain once felt that it would be virtually impossible for cyber hackers to tap into power grid computer networks and cause a problem due to the “heightened vigilance over cybersecurity” in the United States. When Cain realized that he was wrong, he admitted the error.

The Raleigh, North Carolina tech firm owner informed officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of his realization, and the reportedly went into a “scramble” and began taking steps to address the issue. DHS administrators then shared the bad news with utility security officials and started sending “alerts” to power grid operators to urge them to upgrade their software. Crain remained focused on the power grid cyber attack issue, seeking new security lapses which could allow both ordinary computer hackers and enemies of America to exploit.

Many folks in the preparedness community and power grid focused researchers have deemed the vulnerability of system a matter of national security for many years. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the SHIELD ACT, which was written to combat the frailties which could likely cause the electrical system to fail from a cyber attack, solar flare, or EMP attack, has been stalled in Congress for several years.

Adam Crain had this to say about the negative impact a cyber attack could have on the power grid:

“There are a lot of people going through various stages of denial about how easily terrorists could disrupt the power grid. If I could write a tool that does this, you can be sure a nation state or someone with more resources could.”

A report about Crain’s warning in the Los Angeles Times maintains that Congress is at odds of the issue of exactly how to harden the power grid from a cyber attack. According to the report, some members of Congress want to force utility regulators to upgrade specific security systems, while others are content to attack whistleblowers and the media. Lawmakers in the second camp have demanded an investigation into the disclosure of information contained in a government report relating to how easily the power grid could be shut down if just a handful of substations are hit.

Lloyds of London has a longstanding reputation for insuring a number of risky or odd items, such as the legs of an actress or the voice of famous singers such as Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, and Bob Dylan. But, event the company which has consistently made international headlines over some of the most bizarre and high-risk policy ever inked, is not willing to extend a policy to power companies. Insurance appraisers which has reportedly made “a lot of visits” to power grid operators recently, have deemed the system “too weak” to insure. Energy Sector Security Consortium Founder Patrick Miller said, “When Lloyds won’t insure you, you know you’e got a problem.” The consortium is a non-profit organization which advocates for enhanced cyber security measures within the electric industry.

Territorial disputes have also been noted as an obstacle to developing a feasible and enforceable plan to harden the power grid from a cyber attack. Energy industry and federal law enforcement officials have reportedly pointed fingers at one another over the issue, claiming a the other is behaving in an evasive and territorial manner and unwilling to share intelligence and incident reports concerning the power grid.

North American Electric Reliability Corporation Chief Executive Gerry Cauley said, “The notion of a single government agency giving an order to direct changes in the grid is extremely dangerous.” The group is a quasi-government entity which oversees the power grid via utility companies. The companies themselves deny claims they have ignored power grid vulnerabilities and point to the “billions of dollars” already spent to upgrade computer systems and “security loopholes.”

Congressional critics of the status quo concerning power grid enhancement and cyber security are now pushing for more to be done to harden the vital piece of infrastructure. Many have stated that smart grid technology touted as a positive advance by the Obama administration, has opened up an entirely new barrel of cyber security risks. In addition to cyber attacks, many of the power grid’s integral components are openly displayed at remote substations, with nothing more than a chain link fence to secure them in many cases.

What do you think Congress will do to protect the power grid, and ultimately, the lives of millions of Americans?

[Image Via: National Geographic]