Some two weeks after Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta warned of a potential “cyber-Pearl Harbor” involving a possible attack on the electric grid, Mother Nature took the cue and hit the East Coast with a storm that left millions of us for days without electricity from the grid.
Some said silent thanks for that old generator they’d thought to stick in the garage. Though it wasn’t a cyberattack, but Mother Nature gave parts of the grid a good lashing anyway. On my country road south of Annapolis, two transformers were blown down from their perches on telephone poles, and the leaking oil and surging electricity produced 20-foot flames. In the meantime, our driveway was filled for days with 15 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. trucks and about 25 electrical workers from Arkansas erecting new poles and replacement transformers. And that was just to deal with five days of outage, caused by falling tree branches, for a very small community on one short country road. What would it have taken to deal with damage that was far more extensive across a number of states because it had been planned by a group or nation that wanted, above all, to destroy our society?
The electric grid is the heart of our ability to function as a society. We have 18 major infrastructures that keep our civilization operating — water, sewage, telecommunications, transportation, etc. All 17 of the others depend in one way or another on electricity. Imagine what it would be like for an electrical outage to last for months or years as a result of a cyber- or terrorist attack instead of merely for days.
Without electricity, we are not just back in the pre-Web 1970s, we are back in the pre-grid 1870s. Very few of us have enough plow horses or manual water pumps.
A little more than a decade ago, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the National Research Council published a fine report on how to use technology to combat terrorism. Unfortunately, its wise recommendations are still just recommendations because very little has been done in the intervening decade to deal with the vulnerability at the heart of our civilization’s ability to operate: the electric grid.
WOOLSEY: Stormy preview of electric-grid crash - Washington Times