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Power Tripped

Power Tripped

Alternative title for this week’s blog? “Baby it’s cold outside”, especially if you happen to live in a particular county in North Carolina. You might have thought that Vivint’s acquisition would be my big topic, but I think I’m going to let that one stew for a week and see what shakes out of it.

It’s also topical because we’re just days out of November, which was National Infrastructure Awareness Month. If you weren’t aware of national infrastructure beforehand, then domestic terrorists shooting up the power grid probably put it on your radar. For the uninitiated, a group of unknown assailants carried out coordinated attacks on two power substations in Moore County North Carolina. I make that sound a lot more impressive than it really is because to be clear, the theme of this week’s blog is that something incredibly important and vulnerable is wildly insecure.

It was almost certainly not a crack team of military commandos that committed these acts, and they, despite their importance, are not heavily fortified buildings or enclosures. Chances are you’ve driven past you own local substation a time or two. A farm of transformers surrounded by a chain link fence is likely the sight that greets you, probably padlocked. It doesn’t take Houdini to break into it. The Moore County terrorists certainly didn’t encounter a lot of resistance gaining entry to the area, and while the local sheriff indicated that the damage was done by people who knew what they were doing, I’d bet it doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to determine which box to shoot up.

So just like that 40,000 people ended up without power. People who needed that power to stay warm during these early December days, or who used it to draw water from their wells, or power life saving medical devices, all disabled in one fell swoop. For what purpose you may ask? To thwart a drag show.

The vulnerability of the U.S. power grid is hardly a secret, it’s been talked about repeatedly through the years. Homeland Security had a bulletin warning about this very issue in January CBS reported, and I suspect that fears of an attack like this have been bumping around the periphery of most security agencies since 2001 at least. Sadly, they’re just as secure today as they were then.

The nature of the beast dictates that this won’t be an isolated incident either. Worst case scenarios are like Pandora’s Box, and this evil isn’t going back inside. It only takes a few carefully placed substations going down to cripple the U.S power grid experts warn. If security isn’t tightened following this, we should all be praying that this is the last substation attack this year. The power grid is a decentralized mix of both public and private entities. I hope the private ones at least are looking to spring for some big security improvements.

Maybe ADT can spare some of those guard robots.


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