In the years leading up to World War II, the Western democracies, especially the British, worried about the growing power of Hitler’s Luftwaffe. The advent of real airpower had brought a scary new possibility to war; targeting of civilian areas from the air as a weapon of terror.
Without today’s precision-guided bombs, the air war of World War II was a blunt instrument, used as much to create terror as to hit targets of value. During the 1940-41 air campaign by the Nazis over Britain, over 40,000 civilians were killed. This wasn’t the first time a military had attacked civilians, but in modern warfare, it marked a turning point in the use of civilian terror.
Now, a new threat to civilians has arisen, one that could cause just as much damage, with even less risk to the attackers. A cyber war on civilian infrastructure such as water systems, power lines, air traffic control, railways, ports, oil and gas pipelines, and other critical systems could have severe effects on the citizens of any country. At Real Clear Policy, John E. Shkor and Timothy Connors explain the real dangers to the American electrical grid from cyber attack, writing:
[T]he U.S. today is not adequately prepared to prevent or defend against a major incoming cyber-attack on our electric grid, or to recover from such an attack rapidly.
This weakness has been known for some time, and is now more critical than ever to recognize and address — with the U.S. openly engaging in offensive cyber intrusions and attacks against Russia and Iran, the likelihood of counter-attacks increases significantly. The time to harden our vulnerable electric grid —to make it much more difficult to penetrate, and much more resilient in the event of an attack — is now.
Reliable electricity is our social and economic lifeblood, and a successful attack on a major portion of the U.S. electric would have widespread disruptive, and deadly, effects.
Imagine a U.S. in which telephones, cell phones, the Internet and television cease to operate, cars, trucks, trains and airplanes are idled because fuel pumps and charging stations are disabled, banks and ATMS are inoperable, home heating and air conditioning systems no longer work, food and clean water supplies dwindle and run out, and hospitals and other emergency services are largely unavailable. Studies suggest that in such situations, a large number of deaths are likely, and that a societal breakdown can occur in as little as one week.
If this widespread power outage scenario sounds unrealistic or improbable, remember that it happened in Puerto Rico in 2017, and in Argentina and Uruguay mere weeks ago. And, as those examples clearly illustrated, the scope, duration and impacts of a major outage are directly related to the effectiveness of efforts to build protection and resiliency into the grid before an event occurs.
The hard reality is that the U.S. must undertake a major electric grid upgrade that prioritizes cybersecurity, particularly as the number of potential pathways into the grid increases daily. With the growing deployment of distributed energy resources, and the literally billions of interconnected and grid-connected devices that make up the Internet of Things, every day we delay making the grid more secure and resilient leaves our country and our economy in peril.
The authors continue on to explain some of the efforts that must be made to prepare the U.S. grid for an attack. It’s interesting that they mention Puerto Rico in their piece, something I’ve written about regularly since Hurricane Maria hit the island. Puerto Rico is the perfect case study of just how badly most people are prepared for a long-lasting power outage. The only way to prepare for a Puerto Rico-style event is to maintain self-reliance.
You should start with water storage, reliable communications, and a decent survival kit. But a prolonged outage will take more than just storage to survive. You might consider an evacuation site. Where would you go? Many of the issues facing Americans suffering from a grid-crippling cyber attack would be the same as those envisioned during an EMP attack. The possibility of no power for weeks or months is something everyone should consider and plan for the best they can. Don’t wait, get you and your family prepared today.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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