WASHINGTON Nov 14 The U.S. electrical grid is
vulnerable to terrorist attacks, including cyber strikes, that
could cause far more damage than those associated with natural
disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, according to a report
released on Wednesday.
Without urgent attention to security, the United States
risks having large parts of the country blacked out "for weeks
or months" at a cost of billions of dollars, the non-partisan
National Research Council said.
The group's report was completed in 2007 but was classified
by its sponsor, the Department of Homeland Security, until now.
The council lobbied DHS to allow for its release, and said key
findings remain "highly relevant."
"Major cascading blackouts in the U.S. Southwest in
2011, and in India in 2012, underscore the need for the
measures discussed in this report," the group said.
In the intervening five years, the potential for cyber
attacks on critical elements of the electric power delivery
system - including communications, sensors and controls or other
key infrastructure - have arguable risen sharply.
"Any telecommunication link that is even partially outside
the control of the system operators could be an insecure pathway
into operations and a threat to the grid," the report said.
The sprawling power transmission system, spread across
hundreds of miles and with many key facilities unguarded, is
"inherently vulnerable," according to the council.
Deregulation in the mid-1990s, designed to increase
competition in the supply of bulk power, was said to have put
the network even more at risk.
"The power grid, most of which was originally designed to
meet the needs of individual vertically integrated utilities, is
being used to move power between regions to support the needs of
competitive markets for power generation."
As a result, many parts of the bulk high-voltage system are
heavily stressed and at risk for multiple failures should an
In some instances, key equipment is "decades old" and does
not have the modern technology for sensing and control that
could help to limit outages, the council said.