According to a new report from Fox News, U.S. cybersecurity officials warn that our electrical grid could be a target for attack. Hackers sponsored by China and terrorist organizations could potentially bring the country to its knees by exploiting our dependence on electricity. Last week, Admiral Michael Rogers of the NSA told Congress that our nation’s enemies regularly conduct recon missions to find out where we would be vulnerable to such an attack. He warned that the power grid was not the limit of these missions; hackers could also find ways to take advantage of weaknesses in sewage facilities and other forms of infrastructure vital to American life.
Rogers also claimed that China was not the only concern. Without going into specifics, he said that “one or two” other countries would also have the resources necessary to mount a cyber-attack with devastating consequences. He implored lawmakers to understand that a strategy based in defensiveness was a losing one.
According to experts, such an attack is not only possible, the United States and Israel have proven that it can be done. A cyberattack was launched by the two allies against Iran in 2010, infecting Tehran’s Natanz nuclear facility with a virus known as Stuxnet. That virus, delivered by thumb drive, is believed to be responsible for taking a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges offline.
According to geopolitical experts, the main thing preventing such an attack is not security but rather our economic ties to China. While our relations with the communist regime are often strained, China and the U.S. rely on each other in a number of financially beneficial ways. There is also, of course, the matter of retaliation. China wants as little to do with a U.S. war as we do with them. That opens the door to a kind of Cold War philosophy, where two countries shy away from direct conflict because of the devastation such war would bring to both.
Experts have in the past denied that a large-scale attack on the U.S. power grid would be possible, claiming that such a plan would be seen as an act of war and would thus be unlikely to come to fruition. However, that only eliminates state-sponsored terrorism. It is doubtful that ISIS, for instance, would see such a threat as any deterrent at all. And while relatively-small organizations like ISIS may not be capable of such an attack today, there’s no telling what the future could bring.
Besides, even a small attack could create a national blackout, as a report earlier this year from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission pointed out. According to their study, attackers would be able to take the entire country off the grid with just nine substation attacks. And it wouldn’t have to be high-tech in nature. The report noted an April 2013 attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in California that managed to take 17 transformers offline. That attack was accomplished not through cyber-infections but with knives and guns.
Now, as ever, America must remain vigilant against her adversaries. It is more important than ever to prepare on both a personal and political level, which means shoring up our homes and electing representatives who will put national security first. It does no good to wait until after an attack to make preparations.