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An Attack on the US Power Grid

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With so many cyberattacks lately, especially by foreign powers, it's time to consider what would happen if the US infrastructure were to be attacked.  The power grid would be an obvious and easy target.

The power grid affects facets of everyday life.  Never mind powering lights and computers, electricity runs water, a lot of farming, gas tanks, communications and pretty much everything in the country.  Taking out the US power grid for any sustained amount of time would cripple the US physically and economically, not to mention the loss of life that would result.

The US power grid can demonstrably be attacked.  The Stuxnet worm that crippled Iran's centrifuges attacked PLCs (programmable logic controllers).  PLCs are also used to run SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition), the system that controls the grid.  The solution most often offered up to get around the vulnerabilities in PLCs is to have a network separated from the Internet, but that's just the kind of obstacle Stuxnet was designed to overcome.

Another problem is how interconnected everything has become.  With the power grid and the communications grid coming together to form the smart grid, there are many more opportunities for cybercriminals to access the systems.

The United States government is doing a lot to try to make sure everything is more secure.  A number of agencies are working together to share information and look for patterns of attacks and intrusions.  Others are constantly working towards making networks harder to breach and ways to combat malware and viruses.  The US even has USCYBERCOM, which is basically another branch of military command.

With all the cyberattacks in recent years, many by foreign interests looking to hurt the United States, the country has a lot of work to do to make sure the country's power grid is not crippled.