Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Okay, Say Someone Hacks into the US Power Grid. Then What?"

From Defense One:
A joint research project between the Department of Energy and a geographic analytics company is mapping just how far the repercussions could spread. 
“On a scale of 1 to 10,” the threat of a cyber attack on U.S. critical infrastructure is “a 7 or an 8,” the Department of Homeland Security warned lawmakers last week. And indeed, someone has been probing the defenses of utilities, key manufacturers, and others. So what happens if hackers launch a network attack that, say, causes a rolling blackout in the Midwest?

How far will it spread, and what about the second-tier effects? What happens to regional chemical manufacturers or nuclear power plants? How long until municipal utilities cannot provide potable water? What would all this do to hospitals, local businesses, and communities?
Right now, answering even the first of those questions is hard enough.

“There’s not a great understanding of how something occurring in the Midwest might affect something in California,” said Ryan Hruska, an analyst at the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory, or INL.

Even without any bad actors targeting power grids or telecom networks, much of the U.S.’s aging infrastructure is vulnerable to disruptions large and small. In 2003, for example, 50 million people lost power when a blackout spread across the Northeast and into Canada. This fragility suggests that nightmare scenarios are possible.

“Typically right now, when a vulnerability is identified or brought to light, the first thing people want to know is, ‘OK, what does that mean for our critical infrastructure, our way of life, the things we’re doing?’” said Shane Cherry, a department manager at INL. “Right now, there’s not really any good ways to answer that question.”

Enter the cooperative research agreement between the INL and Esri, a geographic information system, or GIS, mapping and analysis company. The government brings the All Hazards Analysis framework, a consequence-analysis tool that looks at cross-sector dependencies; the company contributes software that maps an organization’s IT network in the physical world....MORE