Will The Biggest Blackout In American History Be Eclipsed By Cyber Attack?

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Will The Biggest Blackout In American History Be Eclipsed By Cyber Attack

During a hot summer day in August 2003, the lights went out across much of the Northeast and Midwest United States and the Canadian province of Ontario. It was the biggest blackout in American history, all triggered by nothing more than an overloaded, overheated power line in Ohio which sagged down low and hit tree foliage.

A ‘software bug’ in a control room alarm system failed to warn operators to re-distribute power which resulted in a cascading massive widespread grid failure.

Not long ago, power company executives gathered in Washington to discuss the reliability of the electric power grid. The major topic of discussion> Cyber attack

While the 2003 outage was much more widespread than the Northeast Blackout of 1965 and affected an estimated 10 million people in Ontario and 45 million people in eight U.S. states for up to several days, power company engineers worry that a cyber-attack could bring an even bigger blackout than has ever happened before.
The following are a few excerpted quotes from a conversation between David Greene and Tom Gjelten (NPR) with Mark Weatherford (former DHS cybersecurity), Michael Assante (NBISE president, cybersecurity expert), and James Fama (Edison Electric Institute) who revealed more substantiation for the emerging threat facing of our power grid… Cyber Attack.


“Now we can remotely manage devices via the Internet. So instead of putting somebody in a truck and having them drive a hundred miles to a substation in the middle of the mountains somewhere, you remotely manage that.”

“And then, really to no one’s fault at the time – we didn’t realize it – but didn’t think a lot about the security and the insecurity of doing that.”


“If you go to engineering school, you’re not taught about cyber security as part of becoming a power engineer.”


“The cyber threat. This is a new concern in the power industry, this idea that the electric grid could be shut down by hackers. Here’s what’s changed, two things. First, more of the equipment that makes up the electric grid – from the generators to the transformers – is now operated by computers. Mess with the computer, and you can turn the lights off.”

“When a computer is connected to the Internet, a good hacker can generally a find a way in. This is the new disaster scenario for power companies.”

“The concern now is that a really sophisticated cyber attack could cause a blackout bigger than anything we’ve ever seen.”

The loss of our electrical power grid. While most can deal with losing power for a few hours, if faced with life without electricity for several days, a week, weeks?, or longer?, then life as we know it will be disrupted beyond one’s wildest imagination.

We as a modern society have EXTREME dependence on the power grid. Electricity. The risk and consequences of losing electricity are so enormous, that every single one of us should consider the ramifications — even if only for a few days. If you begin to think about the consequences of a long term blackout, you might scare yourself into taking some serious action…

Think about it…

By Ken Jorgustin

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