Protecting the Power Grid

November 11, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 40
Can attacks be prevented?
By Kevin Begos

Introduction

The nation's electrical grid, a sprawling network of substations, transformers and transmission lines (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
The nation's electrical grid, a sprawling network of substations, transformers and transmission lines, such as these in Chester, Va., is highly susceptible to cyber and physical attacks by saboteurs or terrorists, security officials say. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The United States is spending more on cybersecurity today than ever before but is experiencing a growing number of cyberattacks on the power grid and other targets. A Nebraska-based consortium of small municipal utilities, for example, recently detected nearly 4 million hacking attempts in one eight-week period. The electric grid — a patchwork of more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines and 9,200 generating stations — also is vulnerable to attacks by gun- or bomb-wielding terrorists or saboteurs. Although some security experts say a massive, long-term blackout is unlikely, industry and government officials are working to protect the grid and improve coordination between agencies and utilities. In February, President Obama announced a plan to help government agencies, businesses and the public prevent and respond to attacks. But securing the grid against attack is difficult, and many analysts say the task is becoming harder as the use of renewable energy and cloud-linked “smart” energy-efficiency technology grows.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Energy
Aug. 02, 2017  Energy Policy
Nov. 11, 2016  Protecting the Power Grid
Apr. 29, 2016  Solar Energy Controversies
Jun. 05, 2015  Energy
Dec. 16, 2011  Fracking Controversy
May 20, 2011  Energy Policy
Apr. 01, 2011  Wind Power
Jul. 24, 2009  Energy and Climate
May 19, 2006  Energy Efficiency
Feb. 01, 2002  Energy Security
May 25, 2001  Energy Policy
Mar. 03, 2000  Energy and the Environment
Mar. 05, 1999  The Politics of Energy
Oct. 12, 1990  Energy Policy: Options for the 1990s
Jan. 30, 1981  Energy Policy: The New Administration
May 25, 1979  Public Confidence and Energy
Apr. 05, 1974  Continental Energy Sharing
Dec. 29, 1965  Electric Power Supply and Regulation
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Economic Crises
Electric Power
Energy and the Environment
Energy Policy
Engineering
General Defense and National Security
Natural Disasters
Regulation and Deregulation
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels
Terrorism and Counterterrorism