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Santina’s Technical Tebibits: Can America’s Power Grid Weather a Cyber Attack?

image credit: The photo is from my Adobe Stock account. I made a few edits and I created the title graphic.
Santina White's picture
Cyber Seeker, Government

Santina lives life as a free spirit and aspires to obtain opportunities in the Cyber spectrum. She grew up in a tightly knitted military community with a large family and extended family through...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Mar 11, 2021

Valentine’s Day 2021 brought delicatessen chocolates for many couples, and it brought me an enchanting bubble bath. But just like a bad romance, the next day there were no chocolate stores open, and any future hopes for bubble baths fizzled due to no water and broken pipes.  Storm Uri ushered in a bitter winter storm that not even a well equipped cowboy with a saddle could survive. Record low temperatures were as cold as seven degrees Fahrenheit, many communities’ water supply was not safe to drink for an entire week, and electric utility companies introduced Texans to the “Rolling Blackout”. The blackout was like Texas style musical chairs- when the music stops, or in this case the electricity shuts off, you cannot do anything but take a seat.  The purpose of rolling blackouts was to prevent a total black out and to reduce the use of excessive electricity. However, my inclination for attention to technical details must ask: could Texas or the entire U.S. survive a full blackout not only from bad weather but possibly from a cyber-attack as well? If legislators successfully investigate and find that Texas has a shotty electrical grid, the findings could shine a light on possible vulnerabilities for cyberattacks. The Ukraine power grid was attacked by hackers, and Ukrainians went without electricity for six hours. Reflecting on the result of the Ukraine blackout, what precautions has the U.S. made? What did the administration do during this time of adversity? During that time, could an assessment of cyber threats and overall testing of power grid survival during inclement weather have saved groceries, water, and lives?

This is just my Technical Tebibits.

Santina A. White

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 11, 2021

could Texas or the entire U.S. survive a full blackout not only from bad weather but possibly from a cyber-attack as well?

It's scary that this question needs to be asked, and I suppose scarier that it's not being more urgently asked by federal leaders who should recognize the sheer devastation that would result if bad actors did infiltrate a grid vulnerability with malicious intent. 

Why do you think this isn't more of a slam dunk issue to take up on a national level? 

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Mar 31, 2021

Good points. The infrastructure is very old and large parts of it run on old technology, technology built long before many of the cyberattacks were imagined. While most agree that a significant changes are needed, how to upgrade it and perhaps more importantly how to fund the transition are areas without a consensus. It would be helpful is the various parties could come together and forge a short term and long term transition plan.

Santina White's picture
Thank Santina for the Post!
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