Apr 8, 2009

Jinking the Grid

This is scary. 

A news article in the Wall Street Journal today reports that foreign powers have infiltrated our electrical grid and planted software that could disrupt operations or shut down the system. I have heard of this issue before, and I know firsthand that a lot of attention is being directed to maintaining security for pipeline control systems (SCADA) for this very reason.

It would be easy to make a joke out of this story ("Gentlemen -I am pleased to announce that if the American's attack, we can now shut off their televisions!" "Excellent, Comrade! That will bring them to their kness!"). However, if you think about the amount of economic terrorism that could be unleashed by something like this (disruption to business, electric funds transfer, and God knows what else) this could be a very serious threat.

It would also be easy to take the jaded, cynical position that this story was planted, er... informed, by the industry with the support of the Obama administration to build popular support for the "smart grid" and other infrastructure investments included in the bail out legislation of the Recovery Act.

I am choosing to split the difference. I believe this is a real issue and needs to be taken seriously. I also believe that if energy had not been perking along as an on-going issue and the Recovery Act had not singled out electrical infrastructure so much, this story would have received less favorable reviews from the WSJ editorial board and might have never seen light of day, because it's not necessarily a new issue.

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