Sunday, February 9, 2014

Power Grid Attack

There is an interesting story on the Internet this week about an attack on a California substation…back in 2013.  The story even made the  Los Angeles Times

Why is the story only now being reported?  The consensus in most of the articles is that the 2013 attack was a dress rehearsal and the implication, although left unsaid, is that another attack is coming.

The details are sparse and some articles seems to have added details.  The attack happened last year when snipers shot up 17 transformers in 19 minutes.  They fired into the radiators of the transformers causing a slow of leak of transmission oil.  Once the radiators drained out of oil, they overheated and the transformers shutdown.  A simultaneous attack on underground transmission lines also was launched.

One could argue that this information was kept from the public while investigators followed-up on leads.  According the LA Times article, no suspects have been arrested.

Gun owners see this as an attempt to launch another call for gun control based on the manner these attacks were committed.

The use of small arms instead of bombs or other WMDs is not surprising.  The 2008 attack in Mumbai demonstrated what a small group of highly trained attacker could do armed only with rifles.

What seems to be missing is the motive for these attacks.  The timing of the attacks, according to energy experts, was during the spring which is why the attacks on the transformers did not have a greater impact.  If they attackers were able to conduct their attacks so precisely, then why not attack during the summer?  The attack indicates it was already well rehearsed so why the need for a dress rehearsal?

Military precision is a term being bandied about in many articles on the attack.  The implication being that this was either a terrorist group with military training or an "inside" job by those working for the goverment.  It should come as no surprise that there are terrorist cells here in the US, many with the requisite skills and equipment to have carried out this attack.  Certainly an "inside" job is also not surprising as a way to force the utility companies into funding additional security measures.

It could also be an organized crime operation to blackmail utility companies.

In the years since 9-11, our critical infrastructure remains our most vulnerable point of attack.  Roads, bridges, waterways, food supply and distribution, power grids, etc remain relatively open to attack.  Just look at how easily E. Coli has gotten into our food supply.

That's what has me wondering about the power grid attack.  Our power transmission lines criss cross over remote areas of the country. Substations are located in remote areas even in metropolitan areas.

California seems to be ripe for an attack.  It has a huge land mass with multiple major metropolitan areas.  It is going through a major drought.  DHS has always focused rollouts of new technology on the Eastern side of the US, especially around New York and DC.  Los Angles and San Diego are both ports with the Mexican border nearby.

But given all of that, it does raise the question about why now?

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