A Nation at Risk – North American Power Grid Security

“With adversaries’ malware in the National Grid, the nation has little or no chance of withstanding a major cyberattack on the North American electrical system. Incredibly weak cybersecurity standards with a wideopen communications and network fabric virtually guarantees success to major nation-states and competent hacktivists. This [electric power] industry is simply unrealistic in believing in the resiliency of this Grid subject to a sophisticated attack. When such an attack occurs, make no mistake, there will be major loss of life and serious crippling of National Security capabilities”.,

From White Paper: Security in the North American Power Grid – A Nation at Risk, George Cotter former Chief of Staff, National Security Agency.

If the above quote doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then at least consider the source. There is no more qualified that George Cotter. Not only is Mr. Cotter the former NSA Chief of Staff but he also served as its chief scientist and twice as head of its technology division.

Let’s study the quote a little more closely. Mr. Cotter starts by pointing out that adversaries of the United States already have inserted their virus malware into our national power grid. In other writings by Mr. Cotter he makes it clear that China, Russia and Iran are the chief culprits. North Korea lurks but is not yet in the same league as the first three.

He goes on to point out our nation has little to no chance of withstanding a major cyberattack on our electrical grid system. The United States has a three part grid: east, west and Texas. The weakest links are the smaller power companies. All three grids are interconnected. Affect one power company and the potential exists to take down a third of the nation or more for weeks if not months.

Let’s think for a moment how wide open the communications system is n the United States. The internet, phone, cable and satellite systems all touch our lives on a daily basis. All are powered by electricity. Add a bad actor into the mix with motive, opportunity, expertise and the patience to execute a plan and you have the recipe for what is likely going to happen. The only question remains, will it happen today or in ten years? It’s hard to imagine it taking another ten years!

Cotter’s last comment that this will be a crippling event complete with major loss of life is especially sobering. Again, remember who Cotter is. He knows of what he speaks. 99.9% of Americans have enough food and water to last 2-3 days. 50% might have enough food and water to last a week or two. But then what? Society starts to break down as people scramble for what they need to stay alive. Those that have the food and water stored will quickly be in protection mode. The government is simply going to be missing for a while.

All the above is scary. However, to the extent you do three things starting today will be the extent to which you lower your stress level and begin to put in place a plan to survive. First, you must have a survival plan. Second, begin to put your survival knowledge to practice. Third, begin building a cache of materials needed to survive. This need not cost thousands. Much can be acquired on a month by month basis starting with the most important first. When that day comes, you’re either going to be prepared or not. Taking reasonable steps now will pay big dividends in the months and years to come.