Thursday, August 14, 2003

Power Outage

So far, things seem to be going as well as can be expected given the situation. This is good.

But I'm curious. Every news report seems to stress the fact that it was not the result of a terrorist attack. Well, fair enough. I'll admit that that was the first thing I thought of, and it's good that they are trying to reassure the public.

When we think of a terrorist attack on a power plant or a power grid, we think "bomb." As in, somebody bombed a key chokepoint in the grid.

But here's my question: Am I the only one whose first thought was "computer attack"?

Here's why I think that a computer attack (not necessarily terrorist-related) is not completely outside the realm of possibility:

- 21 seperate power stations went down in a three minute period. That just seems strange to me. I know that everyone's talking about cascade reactions from an overload on the Mohawk grid, but that seems somewhat implausible. I mean, these places have safeguards to protect against this sort of thing. Right?

- Power demand could not have been at record levels- it's summer, and it's hot, but there aren't any major heatwaves anywhere. The temperature in New York today was in the low 90s; hot, yes. Unusual, no.

- No one has been able to point to a specific place and say "There! This is the power station/node/ relay station that started it all." I'm not saying that those in charge should already know the exact cause, but doesn't it seem unlikely that they don't at the very least know where the problem occurred?

Anyway, I don't claim to have any special knowledge fact, it's because of my lack of knowledge that I'm asking questions.

As the internet grew in prominence during the late 90's, talk of securing our "electronic frontiers" grew more and more frequent; after 9/11, we heard about it a bit more, but the possibility of an electronic attack was largely glossed over in the media in favor of coverage of things that seemed more personally threatening (nukes, anthrax, dirty bombs, etc). But one of the primary focuses of any discussion about digital terrorism was the threat it posed to our power networks.

So why isn't anyone on any of the major networks at least raising the possibility, especially given the lack of any real information coming out of the government as to what actually caused this?

Edit: For the record, I'm not saying that I think that it is definitely an electronic attack of some sort (again, terrorist or no). I don't even know if it's at all likely. I'm just wondering why I haven't heard anyone even ask about the possibility, when this is a scenario that has been put forward before when discussing America's electronic vulnerabilities.

No comments: