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The Power Grid Is Far More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Than Most People Realize June 18, 2017

In December of 2015, 230,000 people in Western Ukraine lost power after 30 substations were mysteriously shut off. Contrary to what most people assumed at the time, this wasn’t an innocuous power outage. The authorities would later admit that the loss of power was caused by a cyber attack, which marked the first time that malware was successfully used to attack a power grid. A similar, albeit more sophisticated cyber attack, occurred one year later just outside of Kiev. Given the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it’s widely believed that the Russian government was responsible for these incidents.

However, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. A computer security company has been investigating these attacks, and has discovered the malware that was used to take down the grid. They’ve found that it’s far more dangerous and easier to use than anyone realized before.

The danger of the malware is that it can automatically trip the breakers within a power system that keep the electrical lines from being overloaded. If one breaker is tripped, the load is shipped to another portion of the power grid. If enough are tripped, in the right places, it’s possible to create a cascading effect that will eventually overload the entire system, said Weatherford, who was formerly the chief security officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory authority for North American utilities.

“In some cases, it could then take days to restart all the plants,” he said.

Two things stand out about the malware, dubbed “Industroyer” by the researchers — it’s an order of magnitude easier to use than previous programs and it wasn’t actually deployed to do any real damage, meaning whoever’s behind the December attack might simply have been testing the waters. 

In other words, this malware can induce what’s often referred to as a cascading failure. This is what caused the massive blackout that occurred in the Northeastern US and Canada back in 2003. An overgrown tree branch in Ohio touched a power line, which caused that section of the grid to overload and shut down. The electricity had to be transferred to other power lines, which in turn also became overloaded. This chain reaction continued until 55 million people were without power.

Cascading failure is the perfect example of just how fragile our power grid can be. Because our grid is so interconnected, something really small can have a huge effect on the wider system. Though the power grid in the US isn’t as vulnerable to humble tree branches as it used to be, it’s still quite vulnerable to the type of malware that was used to shut down parts of the grid in Ukraine.

Industrial control networks of the type used in power systems use communications protocols that are much less secure than the kinds of computer networks used by banks, retailers and businesses.

“They were developed years ago, without security in mind. They weren’t designed for smart grids or interconnectedness,” said Robert Lipovsky, a senior malware researcher with ESET…

…Industroyer’s ease-of-use is so disturbing because industrial systems are still playing security catch-up, said Raheem Beyah at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

“I knew we were going in this direction but I didn’t think it would be this soon,” said Beyah, who teaches a course on infrastructure hacking and protection for graduate computer science students.

Bayah says the software needed to take down an electrical grid no longer requires the resources of a nation to create. Adding a module to the malware is now “something that a strong computer science graduate student could do,” he said.

This “Industroyer” malware represents a new threat that people need to accept and prepare for. The power grid, which is the linchpin of our standard of living, is now vulnerable to software that is relatively easy to use. Though it seems likely that the Russian government was responsible for developing it, it could have just as easily been made and deployed by non-state actors on a shoe string budget.

This is a dangerous new reality that we live in. Now, someone with a modest education and a small budget can inflict billions of dollars in damages, and leave us all in the dark. Obviously, that makes widespread blackouts far more likely in the future.

And that potential is probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s very possible that multiple cyber-attacks could keep us in the dark for weeks rather than just days. That would be more than long enough to cause society to disintegrate.

Fortunately, you’re not helpless in the face of this threat. You can prepare yourself now before it’s too late.

Additional Resources:

Are You ready Series: Rolling Blackouts

Could the Latest Solar Storm Warnings Bring an End to Civilization as We Know It?

The Big Blackout: Why I’m Going Lot-Tech to Prep for an EMP

4 Critical Components to Getting Prepped for a Blackout

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published June 18th, 2017
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6 Totally Insane Things That Will Happen If Our Power Grid Goes Down February 27, 2017

power gridImagine if you will, what would happen if you pulled an American family from the 19th century, and plopped them in the middle of downtown Los Angeles during rush hour. They’re not given a warning, they’re not given any kind of primer on what they’re about to experience, and the occurrence is completely inexplicable. How long do you suppose they would last before they cried uncle? Would they even survive? The odds probably aren’t so good.

Of course, the reverse is probably also true. If you and your family were wrenched from the comforts of the present and hurled back into a previous era, you might not fare so well either. Your survival odds would probably be a little better since you have hindsight and an understanding of germ theory. However, it would still be a pretty alien world for you. It would be littered with pitfalls that most modern people can’t even imagine.

Get prepared for the worst-case scenario with this best-seller!

6 Totally Insane Things That Will Happen If Our Power Grid Goes Down

And that’s why it’s so important for everyone to prepare for the possibility that one day our grid could go down in a big way, whether it be from a terrorist attack, cyber attack, nuclear war, or solar flare. If our society suffered a widespread power failure that lasted for weeks or months, it would be no different for us than if we were suddenly sent back to the 1800’s. It would be a strange and dangerous world, and for the average person, it would catch them off guard in the following ways:

  1. All commerce will cease. The ATMs won’t work, the banks won’t open, and the cash registers won’t…well, register. For a while cash will be king, but if the crisis goes on for more than a few weeks, then people will view it as worthless. We’d be back to a barter economy in short order.
  2. Communications will shut down. If you think you can rely on your cell phone to work in a disaster, think again. In a crisis, when everyone instinctively reaches for their phone, that limit is quickly surpassed and the radios on the tower get sluggish, thus causing the fast-busy signal. Mobile analysts estimates that a cell site can handle 150 to 200 calls per second per sector. When a large group are making calls at the same time, the network can’t handle the amount of calls. More importantly, communications with police, firefighters, and ambulance services will cease. Many of the workers in these positions will try to soldier on, and keep doing the best job that they can for as long as they can. However, without ordinary citizens calling them to report crimes and emergencies, they’ll be helplessly watching their communities burn down around them. It won’t be long before they give up, ditch their posts, and return to their families.
  3. Without electricity, all forms of fuel that our society relies on will stop flowing. All of our vehicles will be dead in the water, and more importantly, the trucks will stop delivering food. The grocery stores will be stripped bare in hours, and will not be replenished for a long time. Even if you live in an area that is rich in agricultural resources, there may be no food to be had, since those farms rely on fertilizers and farming equipment that must be delivered by trucks.
  4. And of course many of those farms will lack water, as will your plumbing. For a couple of days after the power goes out, you’ll still have running water since water towers rely on gravity to feed the water to your home. However, electricity is required to clean that water and pump it into the tower. Once it’s out, that means that you won’t be able to flush your toilet. So not only dehydration be a major threat, but without the ability to remove human waste or wash your hands, every community will face daunting sanitation problems.
  5. When the grocery stores are stripped bare, the pharmacies won’t be far behind. Millions of people who rely on life saving medications could die in the weeks and months that follow. But perhaps more shocking is what would happen to the people who aren’t using drugs that are immediately life saving. 13% of Americans are using opioid drugs, which are highly addictive and cause horrendous withdrawal symptoms. Another 13% of Americans are on antidepressants, and likewise, the withdrawal symptoms are pretty problematic. In other words, within a few weeks after the grid collapses, about 25% of your neighbors are going to be in an awful mental state that is not conducive for survival.
  6. And finally, one of the most shocking things that people will have to deal with, is the lack of GPS. The GPS satellites will probably keep running, but eventually the devices that read those signals will give up the ghost. These days people are pretty reliant on GPS for directions, and there aren’t as many paper maps lying around. The average person is going to be utterly lost if the grid goes down.

In summary, law and order will break down at every level, and death will be around every corner. It’s one thing to grow up and live in an era that lacks electricity, but to be sent back to such a time on a moments notice would be one of the most challenging things that a person accustomed to modern amenities would ever face.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published February 27th, 2017
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