Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why America's Power Grid Is Susceptible to Cyberattacks

  1. This is one reason why having your own power source (solar power, windmills gasoline or diesel powered generator is useful in these times. During hot weather, extreme cold weather or during storms when the temperature range isn't something like 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit you need some back up and even if it is in this range often you can lose 500 dollars worth of food in your refrigerator on a day like this when you lose power for 12 to 24 hours and everything in your freezer or refrigerator goes bad or has to be eaten right then or thrown away. So, at the very least you need a generator or some kind of battery backup (Tesla makes a good one by the way) that will keep your refrigerator, a light on, and your radio, wifi and maybe even your TV on if there is a Tornado coming soon or a snow storm or the heat is really really bad and you need an air conditioner.

    I used to use my Onan generator built into my motor home parked in my driveway but since it is in the shop and we likely are going to be selling it soon I bought one from Orchard supply for around 500 to 800 dollars so I would be prepared during the next power outage. Normally, a power outage here is sometime between December and March when 100 mile per hour winds or less blow off the pacific Ocean onto trees and take out the power to some or all houses near us. Recently in one storm 70,000 people in our region and area were without power at the same time. With the new generator I can do just about anything I need to in regard to powering lights, refrigerator, wifi, cable, TV and even power tools if I needed to. Also, the last time I got my natural gas water heater changed I asked for one that would work in a power blackout. This last power outage it worked great.

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    Why America's Power Grid Is Susceptible to Cyberattacks | Time...
    Mar 30, 2017 ... And as more energy comes from cleaner but intermittent renewable sources, like solar, a smarter grid will be needed to handle a more ... 
    A power station in Moapa, Nev. Cyber­attacks on the U.S. grid have become more frequent. Jamey Stillings for TIME

    Why America’s Power Grid Is Susceptible to Cyberattacks

    Mar 29, 2017
    Unless you think trees are secretly waging war on humans, the great Northeastern blackout of Aug. 14, 2003, wasn't caused by an attack. When a transmission line in northern Ohio began to sag because of the intense summer heat, it tangled with the branches of a nearby tree, causing the wire to trip offline. One thing led to another in a perfect storm of equipment and human failure, and in barely four hours, more than 50 million people in the northeastern U.S. and Canada had lost power, including New York City. Power wasn't fully restored for days, and the blackout, the biggest in North American history, would cost some $10 billion.
    That accident showed the U.S. grid for what it was: an antiquated piece of 20th century technology struggling to power the 21st century. Most utilities didn't know their customers had lost power until they picked up the phone and heard from irate customers. Regulations on utility reliability amounted to little more than industry peer pressure. The grid, in a word, was dumb.
    That's changed in the nearly 14 years since the big blackout as the smart technology we were already using in computers and phones has migrated to the machines that power the grid. Thanks in part to billions of dollars in federal funding from the 2009 stimulus package, utilities have significantly upgraded the intelligence of the grid, making it smarter, more efficient and more responsive to threats and disruptions. About one-third of American consumers are now connected to power with smart meters that can send data back to control systems, enabling utilities to do things remotely--including connecting and disconnecting power--that used to require sending a worker out in a truck.
    Deepening these investments is important. Smart infrastructure has already made a difference in the face of the weather-related disruptions that are still the biggest threat to grid reliability. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, for example, smart meters let the Pennsylvania utility PECO reduce its restoration time by two to three days. And as more energy comes from cleaner but intermittent renewable sources, like solar, a smarter grid will be needed to handle a more unpredictable power supply.
    The smart grid's very intelligence makes it vulnerable to a new kind of attack, one that has the potential to be far more destructive than even the worst hurricane--and that's the challenge to address in the next round of investment. Cyberattacks on the power grid have become increasingly common--one estimate found that the grid comes under physical or cyberattack once every four days on average--and utility officials fear that a more connected grid is one that can be more easily hacked.
    "A smarter grid will help prevent blackouts," Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens USA, a major developer of grid components, said at a 2016 utility conference. "But reliance on software and the Internet of things means it gives more points of entry for people who want to harm us."
    Just how harmful became clear on Dec. 23, 2015, when cyberattackers struck power centers in Ukraine and, with a few clicks, shut down dozens of substations, eventually cutting off electricity to some 230,000 residents in the dead of an East European winter. Power was restored after a few hours, but 2016 saw another hack, this one caused by malware sent to utility workers via email. Both attacks were blamed on Russia, which has been in conflict with
    Analysts warn that a Ukraine-style cyberattack would have been even worse in the U.S., because American utilities often lack the kind of manual backups that Ukrainian operators relied on after they were locked out of their computer systems. In the second installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review, released in January, the U.S. Energy Department warned that the electricity system "faces imminent danger" from cyberattacks.
    How devastating could an effective, coordinated cyberattack against the U.S. grid be? Very. Outages from extreme weather can usually be resolved in hours or days. A report by the National Academy of Sciences considered an intelligent, multisite hack by experienced attackers that targeted key components like power transformers. The conclusion: expect widespread, long-term power outages that could take several weeks to recover from, causing enormous economic damage. In their own report, the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies and the insurer Lloyd's of London concluded that an attack from an organized group of hackers to knock off power across major cities like New York and Washington could cost from $243 billion to $1 trillion.
    There's no going back to a dumb grid, not when the U.S. needs to improve energy efficiency and smooth the adoption of renewable power. But utilities must consider how the complexity they're introducing into the grid can be used against them. The smart grid "works well for reliability but will not stop skilled, adaptive adversaries," write energy experts Michael Assante, Tim Roxey and Andy Bochman in a paper titled "The Case for Simplicity in Energy Infrastructure."
    It turns out that the best way for utilities to protect against the threats of the future is by looking to the past. That means contingency plans for the manual operation of grid equipment, like the 1960s-era gear that saved the Ukrainians. "You want to have smart infrastructure, but you want to have backup planning for a day when you need manual operating capacity," says Scott Aaronson, executive director of security and business continuity at the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group. That would give utilities what Aaronson calls an "all-hazards approach" to grid security, providing a reliable backup plan whatever the cause of a blackout.
    Recognizing the grid as a vital part of national security may require amending the Federal Power Act to give the Energy Department greater authority to prepare utilities for an attack--and respond to one after it happens. But cyberwarfare almost always favors offense over defense--and the grid is no different than other battlefields. Rogue hackers, however, make for a much more challenging adversary than a rogue tree.


    The boldest idea in infrastructure is also the oldest: bipartisanship. For generations, Democrats and Republicans supported transformative projects, from great canals and dams to the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system. But for over a decade, bipartisanship has been missing from Washington--and our economy is paying the price.
    Bloomberg, CEO of Bloomberg LP, is the former mayor of New York City
    At my studio we try to design at whatever scale is necessary to solve a problem. The question is how you can radically improve something for which society has unbelievably low expectations.
    So, dream project? Giving some unexpected love to America's next public school, hospital, nursing home, subway or even prison.
    Heatherwick is a British designer

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