North Carolina Blackout: Moore County Attack Highlights Grid Vulnerability

of ‘Deliberate’ attacks on two substations in North Carolina Power outages for more than 45,000 people have once again highlighted the vulnerabilities of the U.S. power grid.

The power grid, made up of three systems that deliver electricity from power plants to homes and businesses across the country, is an essential infrastructure that experts say is at risk from both physical and cyberattacks. part and vulnerable to other attacks. external factors.

Dr. Granger Morgan, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University and chairman of three National Academy of Sciences reports on the U.S. government’s power grid, said gunfire had damaged equipment so badly in the North Carolina attack that it needed to be replaced. It is said that it became — indicates that governments should take threats to the grid ‘more seriously’.

“We know and have known this for decades that power systems are highly vulnerable to physical attacks,” says the latest NAS report published in 2021. said Morgan. The system is still very vulnerable. ”

Power outage in Carthage, North Carolina
Substations under construction as tens of thousands of people lost power in Moore County after two substations were attacked.

Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Why are power grids vulnerable?

According to Morgan, the power grid is fragile, in part because of its accessibility. Many of the country’s 55,000 substations are blocked only by chain link fences, within which equipment is easily the For Moore Countypolice have yet to reveal the method of unidentification person in charge The attack was able to sabotage two substations simultaneously, 10 minutes apart.

Part of the problem is that there is no single agency responsible for managing the resilience of the power grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) governs high-voltage transmission systems, but at the “low-voltage and distribution system level,” states have their own regulatory bodies, Morgan explains.

Mike Mabee, a self-taught grid security expert with 3,000 different companies, both public and private, that own or operate parts of the grid Appeared in “60 Minutes” in August 2022.

Another issue is the physical materials required to keep substations running. In Moore County, it took about five days to turn on. Equipment that needs to be replacedMorgan explained that he could never have enough of the supplies he needed.

Similar attacks on US power grids threaten Western infrastructure


“We have made a lot of progress in our transformer stockpile in recent years, but the very high voltage transformers that make up the backbone of the grid are very expensive and (and) rare,” Morgan said. “Many of them are not made in this country[and]the backlog for ordering them is very long.”

In general, many problems are the result of decades of underinvestment in the power system.His NAS report for 2021 that Morgan helped produce devoted an entire chapter These underinvestments are due to a combination of uncertainties about the future of the sector, the highly regulated nature of the industry and an unmet need for innovation.

Increased attacks on substations

Moore County is not the first location where substations have been targeted. Metcalfe Transmission Substation More than $15 million in damage was caused to California, but a power outage was averted through quick intervention. From 2013 to August 2022, “he had more than 700 physical attacks on the U.S. power grid,” Maby said. told Bill Whitaker on ’60 Minutes’In June 2022, the Department of Homeland Security said domestic militants plan to disrupt the grid At least since 2020.

Brian Harrell, the former Undersecretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, told CBS News that conversations about “sabotage and physical attacks on power distribution and transmission substations” have “increased significantly” this week.

“The power plant is an attractive target, and domestic terrorist organizations know that destroying this infrastructure can have devastating effects on industry, citizens and local governments,” Harrell said. It added that the Moore County incident “is evidence that domestic terrorist groups are deliberately attacking.” It sees critical infrastructure as a target. ”

On December 6, CBS News confirmed the existence of bulletins issued by Oregon’s local and federal law enforcement agencies warning of attacks on the power grid following recent incidents in Oregon and Washington. did. Power companies in two states have reported “physical attacks on substations using hand tools, arson, firearms, and metal chains,” according to the memo.

Law enforcement also said the Moore County attack was followed by counterfeit in other parts of the country.

Attack on North Carolina power grid highlights growing extremist threat


In addition to physical attacks, grids are vulnerable to cyberattacks that can cause power outages and disruptions. In August 2022, her Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber, said: I was told “60 minutes” Her department is in contact with private companies on how to counter cyberattacks like this. seen in ukraine.

“We collected all sorts of information about malicious software and tactics used[and]by the Russian government and shared it with the private sector along with very actionable advice on how to defend against it,” she said. I was.

What lessons can be learned from the Moore County attacks?

Morgan said he hopes the situation in Moore County will spur stakeholders to discuss solutions to strengthen the grid and ensure safety.

“We continue to have events. Sooner or later people in senior federal management will say, ‘Okay, it’s finally time… due to technical and political issues, we’re going to do something to keep the grid resilient.’ It’s getting harder to do all the things that should be done,” he said.

Increased security at substations can prevent attacks similar to those in North Carolina, Morgan said, adding that greater investment in backup or standby equipment will also help reduce outages in the event of a power outage. said it is possible.

“Hardening stations or putting (equipment) behind an opaque barrier could also be a (solution),” he said. “But ultimately, you can’t fully protect your power system if you have a truly determined opponent.” North Carolina Blackout: Moore County Attack Highlights Grid Vulnerability

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