Last fall nine million households on the East Coast lost power because of Superstorm Sandy, according to the U.S. Energy Department. And many of those households suffered outages lasting days or weeks rather than hours.
On Tuesday the New York City Mayor's office was set to offer proposals to protect the city from future storms. Its study will reportedly forecast that one-quarter of the city could be living in a flood zone by 2050.
Weather, especially extreme weather, is clearly a threat to the U.S. power grid. But John Licata, a former energy trader who now heads the energy research firm Blue Phoenix, tells The Daily Ticker, “Weather is not our only issue….cyber security [problems] could be more widespread than any storm this country has ever seen.”
He explains: “The fact that nuclear facilities can be targeted [and] water facilities can be targeted has a huge implication for the energy space.” In addition, says Licata, “a lot more companies are using the cloud to store data” which could be stolen.
“Software through clean web stechnology will be the main difference.”
Cybersecurity was a top issue at the first-time summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and Saturday but they did not announce any firm agreements once the two-day meeting ended.
Licata says the focus now should be on protecting data in the smart grid environment. “Software through clean web stechnology will be the main difference.”
But that software is vulnerable. A September 2012 policy report from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, says “The potential for a real cyberattack capable of physically impacting electricity generation and transmission as well as upstream and downstream oil and gas operations has moved from hypothetical to possible,” according to the report.
“There is no reason to believe that attacks of the nature of Stuxnet will not eventually arise outside the world’s most sophisticated state-run offensive cyber organizations,” referring to the computer worm that the U.S. and Israel reportedly used to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.” And cyberattacks are not only critical for the energy sector but for homeland security itself.
Paul Stockton, then assistant secretary for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, told the Aspen Institute last July that a terrorist attack on the U.S. electric grid could cause a ““long term, large scale outage” that could “affect critical defense infrastructure at home and abroad.”
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