The power grid is the most fragile, and perhaps the most essential, piece of infrastructure in the United States. It is under constant threat of cyberattack, according to a nearly 500-page new report from the Department of Energy. If there is a power grid down and nothing is done to at least mitigate the extreme risk of cyber warfare, life as we know it could end in America in the very near future.
“The U.S. grid faces imminent danger from cyberattacks,” the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) Task Force report said. “Widespread disruption of electric service because of a transmission failure initiated by a cyberattack at various points of entry could undermine U.S. lifeline networks, critical defense infrastructure, and much of the economy; it could also endanger the health and safety of millions of citizens.”
Power Grid Down
Right after she left office, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano finally admitted a significant cyberattack to the power grid was a matter of “when” not “if.” Should the grid be taken down via a natural disaster like a solar flare, a nuclear war, or a cyberattack, the United States does not currently possess either the materials necessary for repairs, or the ability to make them.
As noted in the “Transforming the Nation’s Energy System” report, there are a grand total of 21,500 substations and about 700,000 miles of power lines connecting Americans from coast-to-coast, to the power grid. Because various private and public entities own and monitor portions of the grid, no streamlined set of regulations for upkeep and monitoring of cyber attacks exists.
Thousands of private companies that operate various portions of the electricity infrastructure, would have to agree on a set of rules and any security overhaul before new standards could be approved and implemented. This makes the entire system, and by extension all of us, far more vulnerable.
While cyberattacks are increasing in both volume and intensity, officials in charge of the power grid have been extremely slow to respond with effective defensive measures. The SHIELD Act, the first and only real legislation to tackle the power grid protection issue, was left to wither and die in congressional committee more than three years ago.
In 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the power grid a “D+” grade on its infrastructure report card. That poor mark went unchanged during the 2017 review. In fact, only two pieces of vital infrastructure or governmental system reviewed for the report received higher than a “D” grade – and even then scored only a “C” grade.
According to the ASCE report card, the bulk of our power grid predates the turn of the 20th Century. The majority of the power distribution lines and electric transmission lines were made during the 1950 and 1960s. They had a 50-year life expectancy.
Our power grid is now at least at full capacity, which taxes the system to its breaking point during weather emergencies and the summer months – a perfect time for cyber hackers to attack.
If a massive and coordinated cyberattack also takes down the electric grid in Germany, where most of the needed components are manufactured, it could take YEARS to get the power to come back on in the United States. The death toll from a complete power grid failure would be felt in weeks, not months or years.
During a chat with Dr. William Forstchen, the author of One Second After, we discussed the many ways in which Americans will perish during such a SHTF scenario – and the official government death toll estimations. The prepping expert and historian and I found the federal government tallies to have neglected to take some significant factors into consideration and the death toll to be more than a little bit low.
There are about 7,000 planes flying over the United States at any given time. An EMP would shut down the power grid AND ruin their control system and send them all diving towards Earth. In the effect of a cyberattack, the control panels inside the planes would still work, but there would be no air traffic controllers or lights on the runway to guide them safely to the ground. The fires which would result from the crashes and in the following days and weeks for various reasons, would rage essentially unchecked. Once firefighters run out of gasoline, their engines would not be able to roll to the emergency scenes. Police officers, EMTs, and hospitals would face the same fate once their gasoline and generators ran dry.
Rioting and looting would begin in cities the first night of a power grid collapse. Without police officers to keep the bad guys (and bad girls) in check, it would be total chaos. Even decent people would panic when cut off from the food supply. FEMA has estimated grocery store shelves would empty within three days after a disaster. They are wrong, this too would only take hours – and without fuel, tractor-trailers would not be delivering any more food to the local supermarket.
City dwellers would quickly flee their urban surroundings or perish without food, water, and a way to protect themselves from the marauding hordes. The lucky ones would make it out and walk many miles to reach rural areas where they think they will find food, water, and safety. Unless these folks are lucky enough to have family along the countryside, they probably won’t like the reception they would receive.
In most places well-armed rural folks will be lining up along the county line to stop strangers, both the nefarious and unthreatening people alike, from converging on their communities. Kindness may only extend so far during a survival situation. Protecting the limited food supply and growing gardens will be a top priority for families in rural communities.
The time to prepare for a power grid failure is now. Whatever the cause of the extreme disaster, the end result will be the same – life without any modern conveniences or assistance from governmental entities. Stockpiling long-term storage food, weapons, ammo, and off grid tools should only be HALF of your preparedness plan. Skills will be far more valuable than just about any other type of currency – which will no longer be paper money but gold, silver, and precious gems.
What you can do will have an enormous impact of whether you and your family survive. You can “trade” skills just as easily as you can a jar of food, gold, or a warm coat. Forming a prepping group and/or helping your neighbors and community become better prepared and more self-reliant should also be considered. Urban preppers should connect with a rural prepper or survival group if buying a second piece of land away from the city for a prepper retreat is not financially feasible. Leasing a portion of land in a rural area and placing a camper on it to use as a TEOTWAWKI refuge might also be a life-saver.
Protecting what you have will take numbers – and the better trained and more like-minded the folks toiling along beside your post-SHTF, the better your chances are of surviving, and perhaps ultimately thriving, in the new reality.
What did you think of this post Power Grid Down | DOE Warns Cyber Attacks Could End America As We Know It? Let us know in the comment section below.
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I’ve heard of no other countries having this threat hanging over them. We should state to the world that if something were to happen to our country as a result of a EMP/cyber attack on our electrical grid, that no matter which country is directly implicated ALL modern countries would expect EMP attacks on their country. If the USA goes into darkness, then the rest of the world will share our fate.
Other parts of the world are more at risk. Asia, particularly Japan, is at risk from the crazies in North Korea. Parts of Eastern and Southern Europe face a similar problem from Iran.
There is one reassuring fact that’s not usually mentioned. To cover a wide area, such as the eastern U.S., and A bomb isn’t sufficient. You need a fairly powerful H bomb. Neither North Korea nor Iran has that. Taking out only a slice of the U.S. means that other regions can assist in the recovery.
What I’ve read from Joseph Farah’s G-2 Bulletin, North Korea is preparing to launch a satellite capable of detonating a nuclear weapon more than 100 miles over the US, creating an EMP powerful enough to destroy America’s electrical grid system. N.K.’s Sohae satellite complex is preparing for such a launch. Our status as a functioning country would be destroyed by such a missile the basis for which has already been attempted.
There’s no reason for our power grid to be open to a cyberattack. The fix is an easy one. Pull everything off the Internet and link it will dedicated microwave lines as in the past. I talked with an expert on the topic and he admitted just that. The real issue is who pays for that. Power companies are resisting, claiming it’d be higher electric bills, which is doubtful. My hunch is that they holding out hoping the feds will pay all the costs.
Being connected to the Internet is not the only problem with a cyber attack, because the entire grid is networked together. It would take no time at all for someone planning an attack to locate a few substations, where they could easily hack into the network and do their deeds. Most substations, although gated and other protections are in place, they are really only good for the honest folks who are afraid of electricity, getting caught and going to jail, or just generally know that is what helps provide them power in their community. But no physical presence, makes them unprotected against criminals with nefarious ideas.
The bigger threat however is still the EMP situation, since three well placed EMP devices, or even nuclear missiles, that are 75 to 150 miles above our country, could completely eliminate all electronics in the entire US.. including parts of Canada, Mexico, and reaching into the Southern portions of Alaska. One very, very large EMP device might also suffice, but just average devices, that are simpler to fire off and let explode, maybe even undetected by authorities, is much more efficient and effective. Only 3, I’ve seen the mockups, and we have nothing hardended against the threat yet.