Cities Journal

How Secure Is The Power Grid In The US?

Transformer over orange sky

USA TODAY, together with its affiliated TV stations and newspapers across the US, have done an investigation into the security of the nation’s power grid by examining thousands upon thousands of pages of various government records and federal energy data. They have also surveyed more than 50 different electric utilities and their findings are more than interesting.

Their most daunting finding is that the physical and digital security mechanisms which have been put in place to protect against widespread outages are under attack every four days, on average. Cyberattacks on a smaller scope happen even more often.

In addition to this, they discovered that various pieces of critical equipment, such as transformers, for example, are often very poorly protected by using only chain-link fencing, less than stellar locks and a couple of security cameras. They have also noticed the fact that the suspects responsible for attacks on these installations are extremely rarely (almost never) identified, let alone prosecuted.

Finally, they have discovered that the power industry funds an organization which enforces the industry’s guidelines for security and that this organization decreased the number of penalties by almost a third in the period between 2013 and 2014.

When you consider the fact that a widespread outage lasting a few days, for instance, can disable traffic lights, ATMs, cellphones, as well as air conditioning, heating and health care systems; these findings become even scarier.

Most companies in the industry are putting in more and more money into security, but the fact still remains that they are already far behind when it comes to providing reasonable security to their critical points.

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