The Dangers of Using an Unprotected and Outdated Power Grid System

An attack on our nation’s power supply could lead to thousands of lives lost and hundreds of billions of dollars of damage, according to the National Academy of Science. This information is based on a 2007 study that is just now being declassified. According to experts, the study has remained relevant regardless of its age. Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, the study was originally prevented from being distributed to the public by the George W. Bush Administration. It wasn’t until August of this year that President Obama agreed to declassify most of the study, according to www.businessweek.com.

The study focuses on how our nation’s power grid is vulnerable to terrorist attack. The fact that an increasing level of user integration was partly responsible for vulnerabilities was not lost on the National Academy of Engineers, which actually conducted the study. The increased use of computer systems to give consumers greater control over the energy that they use highlights the need for increased cybersecurity to protect against cyber attack. In addition to attacks on the system via its connections to the Internet, the power grid is also vulnerable to physical attacks upon its equipment. The equipment has aged considerably, decades in some instances, and is not up to the demands placed upon it to protect itself from direct attack.

According to security experts, there are certain steps that can be taken now to protect the grid, including making an investment in additional equipment. It is recommended that the Homeland Security Department, working in conjunction with the Energy Department and private companies, create a stockpile of mobile equipment that can be used for the network. This includes transformers, which if knocked out can take years to replace.

The cost to fully protect our national infrastructure has a steep price tag, but when put into the perspective of the lives that could be saved if the power grid is upgraded, the price really is not that high. Most companies would require an annual budget of $344.6 million dollars to stop roughly 95% of the cyber threats against them. This would be in addition to the $3.7 billion needed to upgrade the current grid system nationwide. A steeper price, but one that could save lives and prevent the loss of hundreds of billions in property damage.

For more information about cyber threats to the U.S. power grid, visit: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-14/thousands-seen-dying-if-terrorists-attack-vulnerable-u-dot-s-dot-grid