Security Alert: Is the Electric Grid Safe?

06/15/2015 – The FBI is seeking the public’s help in the investigation of multiple attacks on critical fiber optic cables near Silicon Valley. They said “there is no indication these incidents are linked with the ‘sabotage’ of the PG&E Metcalf substation” on April 16, 2013. Sabotage? There, a sophisticated attack on critical infrastructure began by cutting AT&T’s fiber optic lines in an underground tunnel near the substation. 911 and voice and data lines were physically cut at about 1:30 a.m. A short time later, about 175 high-powered automatic rifle shots were fired into one of the substation’s Large Power Transformer (“LPT”) cooling tanks. The attack drained 52,000 gallons of oil and caused a bank of 5 LPTs to shut down. Critical power and communication infrastructure was disrputed for several hours before plant operators rerouted power to the grid. No leads to date. PG&E offered $250,000 reward for information leading to the attackers. Notwithstanding the FBI’s “indication,” or rather belief, that the incidents are not linked, the number of threats and attacks on critical infrastructure (electric grid, internet and communications) is on the rise. We all know what it’s like when the internet or phone lines are down or the power goes out for a couple of hours. Imagine if power is lost for 6 months or a year. While the government investigates (with our help) these attacks as well as massive cyber insecurity, utilities on the front lines need to harden and make redundant every critical node. If the power goes down for any extended period, all is jeopardized.

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