We inherited a few shares of a major electric utility, so I took the opportunity a few years ago to ask their investor relations people what had been done to secure their portion of the grid from either an EMP or a major solar event like the Carrington Event back in the 1800s. They guy obviously didn’t know much at all about my question, though in his defense, he was a stock/bean counter guy, not an electrical engineer. His response was that they could disconnect portions of the system very quickly and re-route power as needed in such events. So much for that avenue.
I then called the an electrical engineer I know with that company, who – as it turned out – was ALSO involved in their security operations. I acknowledge that the following is my paraphrase, but he basically said they weren’t doing much of anything extraordinary. Though a phone call, I could almost “hear” the shoulder shrug at the other end, and was waiting for the crickets to start chirping.
SO, a few months ago I got curious again, and called an old friend I’d largely lost touch with. He works for another major power utility, specifically in the nuclear end of their system. But he knew exactly what I was talking about, and (again, my paraphrase) basically said the same thing – except he was more forthcoming with the reasons. If the “event” is an EMP (whether man-made or solar), it would be next to impossible, certainly at any price we can possibly afford, to guard against. And he acknowledged that the loss of the very large transformers in that instance would mean no power for years (not months). If the “event” is computer generated however, that’s potentially far more recoverable, depending on just what they manage to accomplish with the “hit.” Though it still would not be pretty – it would be a major inconvenience to the population as a whole. Still, it would be potentially much more serious to high-level government operations (especially military and “Homeland Security” forces) because of their severely diminished communication capabilities – again, depending on how widespread, just what kind of damage was inflicted, etc.
So the bottom line is, according to at least two people who have significant security clearances within their respective utility systems, if we get hit through a cyber attack of some sort, we potentially get seriously hurt. The question will be just what the motivation (and “savvy” level) of the bad actors are. If they’re smart enough to realize that the entire world economic system would be dealt a massive blow if the U.S. is taken down – even for just a while – then they’ll think twice before attacking. But the mindset of too many these days is to simply destroy – witness the hordes across Europe, or those intentionally destroying an already seriously weakened South Africa. If THOSE folks launch the attack, they’ll be out for chaos, significant loss of life (especially depending on the season), etc. I’m hoping the former category of folks prevails, but fear it will be the latter. I’m sure the Russians and Chinese could easily do the deed today, but fully realize what that would mean to their own nations. But what about Little Krazee? Or how about Iran’s Supreme Leader? (Don’t forget, the Ayatollah can dismiss Iran’s President, and he appoints many military positions and resolves differences among various government entities including the military – he is the most powerful man in Iran, not the elected “civil” leader. Also don’t forget that the missiles Iran just fired are potentially capable of reaching New York City.)
Right now, I’m going to go rummage through my old vintage video collection. I need a good dose of, ♫♪ It’s a wonderful world ♫♪ before bed – especially after viewing the protestors outside the cancelled Trump rally in Chicago, celebrating their “victory” by chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!!!” (And I don’t even WANT Trump! I just don’t want Billary even worse.) If anyone outside the U.S. really understood what’s going on here, they’d realize they don’t need to go to the trouble of attacking us. We’ll probably accomplish the deed soon enough all by ourselves.