×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Vulnerable Is Our Power Grid?

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the dc-is-screwed-but-ac-will-be-fine dept.

Power 359

coreboarder writes "Recently it was divulged that the Brazilian power infrastructure was compromised by hackers. Then it was announced that it was apparently faulty equipment. A downplay to the global public or an honest clarification? Either way, it raises the question: how vulnerable are we, really? With winter and all its icy glory hurtling towards those of us in the northern hemisphere, how open are we to everything from terrorist threats to simple 'pay me or else' schemes?"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

359 comments

Old Axiom (3, Insightful)

2names (531755) | more than 4 years ago | (#30059988)

I have always believed that if something is networked, it can be subject to unauthorized access. I hope I am wrong.

Re:Old Axiom (3, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060172)

I have always believed that if you rely on systems that cannot be entirely your own, but require the co-operation of your fellows, the only way to mitigate the vulnerability of your dependence is to work on that system with your own two hands, and to have as clear a picture of how it operates as your personal faculties permit without any barriers between yourself and the system in question.

If you are trading paper notes for electricity that "just works" and not involved in the operation of the utility, you are UTTERLY vulnerable. You have no idea what's going on, you have no idea if someone is neglecting or sabotaging the system, you are too ignorant of what's going on to recognize when someone is neglecting or sabotaging the system, you have no idea how to fix it if it stops working, and you have no idea how to recreate the system if it is necessary.

How much more vulnerable can you get than that?

Re:Old Axiom (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060248)

Realistically, it depends on the network. If I have a dedicated network and control all the terminals and there are no external access points, you're not going to have unauthorized access. If you have something like that except you have a connection to the internet where you have no controlled access, then your axiom is true.

Re:Old Axiom (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060776)

The former is desirable, while not practical. Unfortunately for everyone, while the Utilities all think they have the former or something approximating it, most of them have something much closer to the latter.

Re:Old Axiom (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060912)

no external access points

No such thing as a network with no external access points. Think about it. If you were able to "get in there" to install, configure and maintain it, someone else can do the same.

Re:Old Axiom (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060284)

This is why you don't network everything even if you could. In some countries they're resistant to build remote-controlling in to everything - sure, when something needs fixing it might take a little longer to physically get there, but at least you don't have script kiddies playing on your power grid or dam's.

But I also think there's some scare tactic behind these "how vulnerable we really are" news. I think I've read about these power grid hackers several times on slashdot alone.

Re:Old Axiom (2, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060544)

But I also think there's some scare tactic behind these "how vulnerable we really are" news. I think I've read about these power grid hackers several times on slashdot alone.

Some are fearmongering... Some are brainstorming... :)

One word: Enron (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060000)

Hijacking the power grid and forcing entire states to pay ransom or suffer brownouts? Such a thing has never happened before!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Star_(Business) [wikipedia.org]

Re:One word: Enron (0, Troll)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060234)

I'm having more and more difficulty determining which is worse, this new American flavor of capitalism - where monopolies are legislatively created and protected - or terrorists.

Re:One word: Enron (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060400)

I'm having more and more difficulty determining which is worse, this new American flavor of capitalism - where monopolies are legislatively created and protected - or terrorists.

I'm gonna go with option A. I can shoot terrorists. If I shoot the CEO of my local cable monopoly I'm probably going to go to jail......

Re:One word: Enron (1, Interesting)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060590)

I'm gonna go with option A. I can shoot terrorists. If I shoot the CEO of my local cable monopoly I'm probably going to go to jail......

How? When handguns are even prohibited to military people on a military base, what chance do we have?

Re:One word: Enron (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060778)

The military is it's own animal. But in 38 states [handgunlaw.us] (the blue and yellow ones on the map) you can easily obtain a concealed carry permit as a civilian, provided that you aren't a felon or mental case. In some of the remaining states you can also obtain one, though you may have to jump through additional hoops. The only two states where you absolutely can't get one are Illinois and Wisconsin.

It's probable that in a few years that you will be able to obtain one in all 50 states. SCOTUS is on the verge of incorporating the 2nd amendment against the states. Once that happens we can begin to dismantle the unconstitutional restrictions placed on our right to keep and bear arms by some of the more urban states.

Point being, that you have whatever chance you are willing to give yourself. Personally I carry everywhere that it's legal to do so. I hope and pray that I never have to use it. Should the day come though I won't be cowering under a desk waiting to be murdered by some mental case or Mumbai copy-cat.

Re:One word: Enron (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060440)

I believe that "new American flavor of capitalism" is called Socialism.

Re:One word: Enron (1, Informative)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060786)

Only on Fox, and they call everything they don't like socialism.

Pay me or else? (4, Insightful)

bunyip (17018) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060016)

Suppose someone holds the nation's power grid hostage and then wants payment? So, why doesn't the government simply pay them, then track them down for assassination and release photos of their bullet ridden corpses? Would certainly discourage any copy-cat crimes. Somali pirates too.

Just a thought...

Re:Pay me or else? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060098)

You mean just a Republican thought...

Re:Pay me or else? (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060138)

No it wouldn't deter anything. People always assume the bullet-ridden corpses were just dumb, and they will be smart and not get caught.

As for heating problems, I have a backup propane heater so even if the central electric died, I won't freeze. Worse-case I go sit in my car and get warm there. People should always have a backup plan.

Re:Pay me or else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060338)

Worse-case I go sit in my car and get warm there

That'll work until you run out of gas. Gas pumps work on electricity too. I wonder if gas stations have backup diesel generators?

Re:Pay me or else? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060628)

Gas pumps work on electricity too. I wonder if gas stations have backup diesel generators?

Several did in Houston after Ike. They made some big money too...

Re:Pay me or else? (0)

omb (759389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060348)

The bullet ridden corpses wont do it again,

If you look at the politically correct response to the Somali pirates, you see why the west has to develop an effective and cheap response to this kind of crap.

Special Services, shoot on sight, if you are in the wrong place, or a tac nucke, but something that means we dont have to start another war or nation building experiment (vide Iran hostages and Reagan).

Re:Pay me or else? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060428)

If you look at the politically correct response to the Somali pirates, you see why the west has to develop an effective and cheap response to this kind of crap.

Give the guys on our merchant ships guns and train them how to use them. There's your effective and cheap response. Arming merchant vessels halted piracy a few hundred years ago. Why wouldn't it do the same today?

Re:Pay me or else? (2, Funny)

mayko (1630637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060558)

It also worked well in "The Fast and Furious" with the truck drivers.

But lets just hope the pirates aren't as tough as Vin Diesel... I mean, his last name is a fucking fuel, it doesn't get more hardcore than that.

Re:Pay me or else? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060662)

The pirates aren't tough. Most of them are teenagers on the verge of starvation. The only reason they are as successful as they are is because they have AK-47s and their victims have fists. Give the victims their own firearms and I think you'll see that the problem solves itself in short order.

Of course in this politically correct day and age that isn't an option because someone might get hurt.

Why the "terrorism" tag (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060384)

Didn't you guys get Obama's memo? There is no such thing as terrorism - only human-caused disasters. Please report to the Ministry of Truth (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ [whitehouse.gov]) for sensitivity reprogramming.

Re:Why the "terrorism" tag (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060638)

Didn't you guys get Obama's memo? There is no such thing as terrorism - only human-caused disasters. Please report to the Ministry of Truth (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ [whitehouse.gov]) for sensitivity reprogramming.

You did not read carefully enough. There is still terrorism. There is no Muslim terrorism.

Re:Why the "terrorism" tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060742)

Can you imagine what the military would have done to one of their officers during the Cold War if they'd discovered that he had repeatedly tried to contact the Soviet embassy? Our leaders' suicidal embrace of diversity at any cost disgusts me.

Re:Why the "terrorism" tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060876)

Dude, if it wasn't for non-whites America's military would be what? 1/3 its current size? Diversity isn't just a nice option for keeping America strong, it's basically mandatory.

Re:Pay me or else? (4, Insightful)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060582)

Funny, as I recall I have to pay my electric bill every month "or else" even now... Damn, the terrorists have already won!

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060044)

At least it would have been if I had been on a non-vulnerable grid.

Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (5, Informative)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060046)

Speaking of Brazilian power failures, Brazil had another major power failure yesterday. Power from the Itaipu dam was cut off, which apparently put millions of people in the dark as it generates something like 14GW. Itaipu blames the Brazilian grid, meanwhile Brazilian officials aren't sure what it was, but are protesting any idea that it was sabotage/hacking. Paraguay and Uruguay also get power from Itaipu and were similarly affected.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/11/11/brazil.blackout/index.html [cnn.com]

Re:Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (5, Informative)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060194)

According some reports, it was probably caused by the weather. Two main high-voltage power lines faulted simultaneously, causing part of the system to shutdown for safety. So, no hackers this time, I guess.

Re:Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060220)

Itaipu blames the Brazilian grid, meanwhile Brazilian officials aren't sure what it was

All the grid workers were too busy making cat calls at a girl in a miniskirt.

View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (5, Interesting)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060226)

I've been living in São Paulo for over 9 years. I was without electrical power for a few hours last night.

The timeline on this is pretty entertaining. On the 7th, there were a bunch of stories saying the 2007 blackouts in Brazil were caused by crackers (the articles say "hackers"). On the 9th, there were strong denials all around, accompanied by stories saying that no, the 2007 blackouts were caused by "sooty insulators." On the 10th, Brazil suffered a blackout much worse than the ones in 2007. That looks to me like crackers saying "sooty insulators? We'll show you sooty insulators!"

By the way, power failures are normally abrupt, but the one last night was not. I usually go from lights to no lights almost instantaneously, but last night, the lights were flickering for a while. After a few minutes, I thought it was going to stabilize, because my compact fluorescents stayed on while my UPS beeped a lot to tell me it wasn't getting enough juice. The larger fluorescents in the kitchen couldn't start, but the compact fluorescents gave me some light in the living room.

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (3, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060378)

What you suffered was a brown out, where your voltage dropped. Essentially, you had about twice the power load as your source was capable of supplying. This is bad for a number of reasons, and the electric grid should have cut you off entirely. It also might have damaged some of your household devices. Power supplies and other things don't like being run at low voltage, it can actually be worse than over voltage in some cases.

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060486)

Brazil has both 110 and 220. If he is on a nominal 220 system and it dropped to ~110, that would cause no harm whatsoever to anything with a switching power supply which can probably run on about 100-250V. This is not the law or anything, but in practice almost anything with a switching supply is intended to take 100-250V and 50-60Hz so that it can be sold internationally with little to no modification. It would also explain why his CFLs stayed on, but his UPS was unhappy. But I'm just guessing, because he didn't give us any useful information; telling us he's in Brazil gives us two possible voltage ranges. They weren't organized enough to use different connectors for different standards down there until recently; AFAIK Brazil is the ONLY nation to adopt the new international "standard" for wall outlets. You won't be seeing many of them in the wild any time soon though.

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (2, Informative)

rift321 (1358397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060538)

My opinion as a controls engineer for a utility contractor:

The accusation that this was the work of hackers is ridiculous. Not only would such a job be extremely difficult to execute, but I doubt that, IF it were successfully executed, it would be easily returned to a working state.

This has all the indications of poor maintenance of dielectrics, especially "sooty insulators." If a high-voltage dielectric became overly-dirty, a ground fault could easily occur with a short across the materials on the surface of the dielectric.

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060546)

Are you sure it wasn't just the adverts in the middle of Coronation Street?

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060692)

Hmm... interesting. Could be feasible.

Any other insights about living in Brazil? Dangerous, or is that exaggerated? Are most of the women hot? ;-)

Re:View from a US citizen living in Brazil. (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060856)

By the way, power failures are normally abrupt

Just as I read that sentence my computer rebooted itself for absolutely no reason. Freaky.

South America == fault, not hackers (1)

jijitus (1478465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060276)

Most countries in South America [leaving more advanced countries like Brazil and Uruguay outside the group] are plagued by inneficient mantenaince and/or corruption so inspectors turn a blind eye at problems. In Argentina, in any warmer-than-usual day the power fails in highly populated cities. Or someone steals some kilometers of high-voltage copper cable trasmitting enegy to those places. It is almost normal.

Re:Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060292)

You know what's funny about the Itaipu dam? It is located in the state of Parana and, still, it does not provide a single watt for that state (all Parana's eletricity is produced in smaller and local dams). If you see the Itaipu's power lines traject, it goes straight to the state of Sao Paulo (which does not pay a dime to Parana for that energy).

Now why when Sao Paulo collapses Parana also suffers a blackout?

It's because the bastards linked Sao Paulo's power grid to Parana's, so when Itaipu is not enough (or have problems like the one yesterday), they suck energy which is created and supposed to be provided to Parana.

I remember blackouts in Curitiba in the past because the power was re-routed to Sao Paulo.

And some people still wonder why there are talks of independence for the southern part of Brazil.

Re:Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060456)

You know what's funny about the Itaipu dam? It is located in the state of Parana and, still, it does not provide a single watt for that state (all Parana's eletricity is produced in smaller and local dams). If you see the Itaipu's power lines traject, it goes straight to the state of Sao Paulo (which does not pay a dime to Parana for that energy).

It's because the bastards linked Sao Paulo's power grid to Parana's, so when Itaipu is not enough (or have problems like the one yesterday), they suck energy which is created and supposed to be provided to Parana.

So if the power lines go straight to Sao Paulo, how is Sao Paulo's grid connected to Parana's? You contradict yourself here. Also, why should Sao Paulo get any money from Parana? The Brazil and Paraguay own the dam, not the state of Parana.

Re:Major Brazil Power Failure Yesterday (1)

BoppreH (1520463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060702)

I would say that Sao Paulo provides you with cheap electronics, but I forgot that Paraguay is right there...

I wasn't affected, fortunately, and followed it RT (5, Insightful)

kusanagi374 (776658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060718)

I live in Rio Grande do Sul, in a region where we have smaller power dams that supply more than enough energy for us to keep running without Itaipu, and I must say it was quite interesting to follow everything from here in real time. I was chatting with a friend of mine from Rio de Janeiro, and we were about to play some Mario Kart online, when suddently she sends me an SMS in 22:14 telling me "You're not gonna believe it, but the entire city of Rio de Janeiro has no energy. Even the Cristo Redentor doesn't have any light, and I've never seen that happen in my entire life!". A few minutes later she comes back online using her notebook and a 3G modem, retwitted the infos I sent her to her friends, and following my suggestion took a couple of pictures of what she was (un)able to see.

I then called her and she proceeded to tell me about how chaotic things were on the streets, that basically the traffic was jammed, all buildings nearby had people locked inside elevators and she could hear the cries for help, and until 5 minutes after the blackout all cellphone lines were jammed too. I then kept following the news on portal websites and Twitter and reported back to her in real time to let her know what was happening and how big things where, although she had already contacted friends throughout the country and kind of knew the places that were online and the ones that weren't.

I must say it was quite an experience to follow things in real time and inform someone right there about it, and I guess she was "thrilled" about it too, even though she's afraid of the dark. :(

Here are the photos she managed to take:
  - http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/1382/foto1jm.jpg [imageshack.us]
  - http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/5272/foto2b.jpg [imageshack.us]

Who's We? (0)

ztransform (929641) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060054)

Please let me know from what nationality a poster to Slashdot actually believes his is the only one represented on this website..

Re:Who's We? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060176)

Slashdot is a US site. Most posters are also probably US based. I know people from other countries post here, but please be realistic... the focus seems to be on the US.

Re:Who's We? (1)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060286)

Please let me know from what nationality a poster to Slashdot actually believes his is the only one represented on this website

United Federation of Planets, duh

Re:Who's We? (3, Insightful)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060386)

Please let me know from what nationality a poster to Slashdot actually believes his is the only one represented on this website..

We all make assumptions.

A bigger threat (2, Interesting)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060084)

A bigger threat than terrorists is arbitrary government restriction on competition in the electric grid [theobjectivestandard.com], which is what led to the rolling blackouts in California.

In any case, this winter could be bad - probably a good time to get a generator.

Re:A bigger threat (5, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060260)

Actually it was Enron illegally manipulating the market which lead to the rolling blackouts. Notice they stopped shortly after the collapse of Enron and the arrest of those that hatched the schemes.

I read that link; appearly you think companies should be able to do whatever they want to public resources without restriction. I don't buy that nonsense, nor do I think corporations care about anything but squeezing money out of people. We allow them exist to serve a public good, not because they have any right to existence.

The "bribing" described in the article was Eddison trying to convience the local government that it would be worth it to install an electric grid. He proved to be right, but not every idea that comes along would pan out like that. The government is supposed to represent the people, and the people shouldn't have the roads they paid for torn up at the whim of a corporation, so the corporration (or Eddison) needs to convince OUR representives that there's something in it for us.

Re:A bigger threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060616)

Please stop spreading misinformation. There's ample evidence that Enron manipulated prices. Ever heard of Death Star [wikipedia.org]?

How is that any different.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060094)

than the current local power monopolies? We are already in a "pay me or else" scheme which threatens lives and leaves us with this vulnerable infrastructure in the first place. And, unlike the "terrorists", the power companies have the cojones to stand before Congress and admit the control systems are vulnerable, the transmission grid is old and failing, the expected load in the next 15 years can't be handled and then claim its not their problem, its too expensive and the government needs to pay for it. As if they aren't taking enough on the front end from the consumer, they want more off the back end too.

Sickening.

Re:How is that any different.... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060780)

I realize this is Slashdot, so anything less than complete anarchocapitalism is no better than terrorists, but...

Terrorists generally have to inflict actual harm to get their job done, and they have very little to lose. Capitalists don't have to inflict harm, they just need to make profits (they might inflict harm upon the way). They have a lot to lose: if people get pissed off enough, something will be done about them -- probably something that ruins their business.

Wired or unwired? (2, Insightful)

avm (660) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060112)

I don't know about the connectivity of power stations/substations, but I've seen quite a few that appear very vulnerable to physical damage by virtue of location (eg. Not enough space between fence and components, or down an embankment from a quiet unlit street. Seems like it wouldn't take much more than a steel bar and a good arm to cause some pretty spectacular fireworks and a whole lot of repairs.

Re:Wired or unwired? (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060288)

Do you really want to be within crowbar-tossing distance of this?

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2674646408572574875# [google.com]

Re:Wired or unwired? (1)

avm (660) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060922)

Can't see the vid as I'm on my blackberry, but I've seen transformers (pole mounted residential type) go pop a number of times and its not something I like to be within 100 yards of. From the same elevation you'd get hurt, but up an embankment and chances are you'd have time to at least turn and start running away from the festivities.

Point being that many substations are quite vulnerable to extremely simple denial of service attacks solely by virtue of their placement in the surrounding terrain, and/or their design. IMHO, more vulnerable this way than via network access, in terms of equipment damaged at least.

neeed more power (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060164)

need more power for my vibrator.

This vulnerable (1)

cabjf (710106) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060188)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003 [wikipedia.org]

If we can't get a reliable grid even without thinking about terrorists and hackers, then how secure do you think it could be? If one link in the chain can cause a widespread blackout, not very secure at all.

Re:This vulnerable (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060514)

That was the 1st large scale blackout in 38 years. That sounds pretty reliable to me. Or are you demanding 100% uptime?

Re:This vulnerable (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060598)

Interesting way of looking at it. If you are going for the five nines that means that the power grid is only allowed about three hours of downtime every 38 years.

Re:This vulnerable (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060820)

Well, the '03 blackout was definitely longer than three hours. However, long blackout events like that are far and few between. The ones that come from weather are also rare. The fact that we have come to just expect the electric grid to be there is a testament to its reliability, the same way we expect the wire phone network to just work. My cable/inernet goes out more than either of those two.

You wanna that I take down the grid? (-1, Flamebait)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060224)

  • High powered rifle
  • Box of ammo
  • A bit of target practice
  • 5 to 10 people scattered around the country in remote areas taking potshots from their trucks

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060300)

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

Could someone please mod down this flamebait moron?

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060446)

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

Go fuck yourself.

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060550)

agree.

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060562)

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

Although this is flamebait, it's not entirely untrue. It is however an argument in favor of personal gun ownership in my book. You know how they call suicide bombers cowards and terrorists? Well, I call cruise missile launchers cowards and terrorists. Terrorism is just a word, and it's basically used by governments to describe the only type of military attack remaining to a disadvantaged group. If you can afford to launch a cruise missile and blow someone up 2,000 miles away then you're the dominant power, but if you have to strap explosives to people then you're the terrorists.

The standard argument for gun ownership is that an armed populace is the only possible antidote to fascism. It applies here, as well. It's pretty hilarious that you're going on about this so soon after Guy Fawkes day. Were you saving it?

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060728)

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

It's pretty hilarious that you're going on about this so soon after Guy Fawkes day. Were you saving it?

The proximity to Guy Fawkes is totally coincidental. What I was pointing out is that you don't need any fancy high tech methods to take down the US power grid, all you need is some accurate shooting out of insulators in remote areas where no-one can observe you et voila one dead network in as fast a time as you can take 10-20 shots. And putting armed guards along the power grid in those areas is impossible,

Given the propensity of the US administration to declare various items as being the hallmarks of terrorism (IE liquids on planes) I was attempting to use sarcasm to point out the FUD of this whole situation. However I am saddened by the knee-jerk response of the kiddies who can't seem to think things through, and the fact that I feel like I actually have to explain my comment.

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (1)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060606)

If you believe in gun rights then you support terrorism in the US

That one is going to let some Al-Qaeda people confused.

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (1, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060620)

If you believe in free speech then you support racism.

If you believe in freedom of sexuality then you support paedophiles.

If you are against the death penalty, you're a communist.

If any of the above seem reasonable to you, do your country a favour and continue to not vote.

Re:You wanna that I take down the grid? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060872)

If you don't believe in gun rights you support facism in the US.

I'd rather deal with a hypothetical lone nut than deal with actual Soviet style government.

How vulnerable is *your* power grid? (5, Insightful)

GuyFawkes (729054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060240)

I'm writing from the UK, so no matter what happens to *your* power grid, it won't affect *our* power grid.

Before you can get a sensible answer, you need to learn to ask a sensible question.

In any event, *your* power grid has already proven to be incredibly vulnerable to everything from single points of failure to social engineering for profit (Enron) so, quite frankly, worrying about the vulnerability of *your* power grid to hacking is like wondering about the vulnerability of a shiny new laptop left unattended on a car front seat to hacking... you have other issues to need to address first.

It is like wondering how vulnerable *your* road bridges and infrastructure are to hacking, while completely ignoring the fact that they are falling down by themselves due to lack of maintenance.

Re:How vulnerable is *your* power grid? (1)

cirby (2599) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060548)

I'm writing from the UK, so no matter what happens to *your* power grid, it won't affect *our* power grid. ...unless you bought your control hardware and software from the same people we bought ours from (hint: to a moderate degree, you did).

Or unless you have equipment with similar issues in similar conditions.

As far as the "leaving laptops on seats" security issue, you must not have noticed the recent round of "British government officials leaving laptops on trains" stories.

Oops.

Re:How vulnerable is *your* power grid? (1)

rift321 (1358397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060580)

I couldn't agree more - The risk of hackers getting to our grids is FAR outweighed by the risk of physical attack, which is FAR outweighed by the risk of poor design and maintenance.

Re:How vulnerable is *your* power grid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060608)

I'm writing from the UK, so no matter what happens to *your* power grid, it won't affect *our* power grid.

Before you can get a sensible answer, you need to learn to ask a sensible question.

In any event, *your* power grid has already proven to be incredibly vulnerable to everything from single points of failure to social engineering for profit (Enron) so, quite frankly, worrying about the vulnerability of *your* power grid to hacking is like wondering about the vulnerability of a shiny new laptop left unattended on a car front seat to hacking... you have other issues to need to address first.

It is like wondering how vulnerable *your* road bridges and infrastructure are to hacking, while completely ignoring the fact that they are falling down by themselves due to lack of maintenance.

wtf, you cocky British troll...

You are glossing over the fact that *our* country is about 40 times bigger, has about 10 times as many major bridges, and has several thousands more miles of roadways than *your* country... maintenance is a bit more costly and spread thin.

And as much as you'd like to think *your* country has it all figured out, guess again [waveenergytoday.com].

Re:How vulnerable is *your* power grid? (2, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060938)

Won't deny a thing you say about *our* grid and infrastructure, in fact I generally agree with you.

But what makes you think that *your* grid and infrastructure are in any better shape or state of maintenance?

Incidentally, a few years back I participated in a table-top exercise modeling a "potential cyber-incident". One of the people present was an IT guy who manages the job for *my* power grid. The guy knew his stuff, and the things he said made me feel really good about the command and control for *my* power grid. For one thing, there's no linkage between the internet and the command and control network. But he had some real horror stories regarding auditing some other power networks. In one place they recommended routing a network connection through a firewall machine. Later when viewing the results of their recommendations, they saw the ethernet cable go in one side of the firewall machine - and out the other. (physically, not electrically or logically)

its simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060266)

we need justification to nationalize the power company's.
Sure they could just impose standards like they do with handling waste material and safety. But the government just simply knows better. hence they must seize them so they can run them better then the evil private sector that just wants to expose the public to avoidable hacker attacks and black outs.. which will cause pandemic size deaths in the heat of summer.....

please take note i have a hint of sarcasm in here

As a european, looking at US infrastructure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060268)

...I would also be very worried about the fact that you use suspended power wires even inside many of your larger cities (check out Miami, f.e. - sheesh!), as opposed to dug-down cabling. In the particular country I live in (one of the scandinavian ones), there isn't a single suspended wire in any city, outside the fenced high-voltage transformer station areas. Havoc can wrought inside city limits, without an arsenal, in ways easier than hacking your grid.

Re:As a european, looking at US infrastructure... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060566)

...I would also be very worried about the fact that you use suspended power wires even inside many of your larger cities (check out Miami, f.e. - sheesh!), as opposed to dug-down cabling.

Funny. I can't remember the last time I saw suspended power lines in a city. New York City doesn't have them. Nor does Washington DC. Are you sure you weren't in the suburbs?

Plural: It's Grids, not Grid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060314)

The lower 48 CONUS actually has 3 power grids, not just a singular grid. They are the:

  • Eastern Interconnect
  • Western Interconnect
  • Texas Interconnect

Yes, Texas *is* like a "whole 'nuther country", it even has its own separate power grid.

easy to solve, done many times. (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060364)

It's easy to secure everything. Put security checkpoints on every bridge, tunnel, road, port, airpot, intersection, everywhere. Have bio-id issued and tagged to everyone and everything who is circulating or communicating with any national device, entity or person. Require this bio-id of all interchanges of all kinds. It worked fairly well in the USSR, and they had only papers and radios. If that's not in your script for the future, well, otherwise, the other best option is to invest in education.

Speaking for generation, NOT VULNERABLE (5, Informative)

rift321 (1358397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060416)

Speaking as a controls engineer for a major utility contractor, the control systems for power plants are completely isolated from the internet... it's common sense. There are security consultants out there feeding FUD to the public about the vulnerability of these control systems to viruses planted (either knowingly or unknowingly) by plant personnel. Well, if someone had intimate knowledge of the software AND close ties to the operators AND really thought that bringing down the plant would be a good way screw everyone over, despite the fact that when things go wrong, all valves and systems return to a fail-safe position, AND once the software was re-installed, everything is easily restarted...

Yeah, I guess it could happen. As far as the grid is concerned, I'm *guessing* that a lot of people were influenced by the same method of thinking.

Look, if anyone really wants bring down the power grid, we should be worried about a physical attack WAY more than an electronic one. I just can't conceive of how our systems are as vulnerable as people say they are.

Re:Speaking for generation, NOT VULNERABLE (2, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060788)

The generation systems are fine, it's the transmission system that is horribly vulnerable, both to deliberate damage or just random crap (refer to the 2003 northeast blackout. A single down line cascades and takes out 1/6th of the country). All the generation security in the world isn't worth anything if you can force the plant down (over 250 plants had to shut down due to the 2003 blackout) by taking out the grid.

Though I do very much agree the concern over "hackers" is far overblown.

Re:Speaking for generation, NOT VULNERABLE (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060908)

uuh.. right. I went to a conference done by a couple people from DHS, and they had some different opinions. One of them was an auditor with quite a bit of experience, and one of his main points was that in his entire time doing auditing for utilities/infrastructure, he had NEVER found a 100% isolated system. It's pretty much impossible to have a network where there is no way to get data from outside the network in. There's always either someone who takes home one of the company laptops, a USB port on something that shouldn't have a USB port, or an unmonitored modem sitting around. The average patch time for these utilities is just under a year.. I don't see how that isn't vulnerable. It also sounds an awfully lot like you and a bunch of other people here are trying to say that just because the protocols used for DCS/SCADA systems aren't as well known as others, that they're somehow secure.. You're basically making the "security through obscurity" argument, which we all know is false. Also, it was mentioned that the average patch time for these places is just under a year, with some that hadn't even done any patches for nearly two years. Maybe things are different where you work at, but this is pretty much what the auditor's experience was at the vast majority of the sites he visited.

Threats to Grid overstated. (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060452)

I would say that threats to the power grid tend to be overstated.

a) Power grids in the USA are regional affairs, so, the worst that can happen is one section of the country might get whacked.
b) Power companies frequently operate their own private physical networks for control... at least, that's the way it was in the early 2000's when I was into it. Our company had built their own private fiber optic loop.
c) Extremely critical stuff is done with a phone call by people that know each other. Like, "turn the generator off", is something done not so automatically.
d) There are loads of incompatible stuff out there in the field for remote control and SCADA. So, if you could go out there, and tell every customer to turn off all their equipment, remotely, you'd be so rich from just building a product that could do that, you would not want to go to jail, when you could be a billionaire. Just reading a power meter has dozens of protocols, formats, etc, and many of them are actually just wired up with a dumb phone line.

It's not impossible, I'm sure.. but, its not like hacking into a machine knowing that its running either Linux / Apache or Windows / IIS and going from there. All these pieces of embedded equipment have their own stuff, and the knowledge tends to be very specialized.

Re:Threats to Grid overstated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060846)

Can we see some citations for a), there? I have something that disagrees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003

Grid Fails, it happens (1)

Adovid (1364717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060526)

Ice storms can often make tree branches break onto powerlines and in extreme cases have put enough ice on the power lines themselves to make them sag to the ground and bend telephone poles. Missouri and Oklahoma, a couple of years ago had one of the worst ice storms in 20 years. Followed by a few days of serious work to repair them and almost a year worth of clean up from all of the destruction that the ice made. Looking at the scene after the event it looked like a hurricane had hit. I doubt America is in big trouble. There is no way to mount a serious DDOS attack without removing anonymity and making yourself a target by physically connecting to the grid. Americans can deal with a few days of power failure. Nature itself has already put us in a position to be ready for grid failure.

You Americans must be very different (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060536)

Why do everything have to do with terrorists? It's ridiculous from an outsider's point of view, especially after the point has been made over and over again ad nauseam.

And you can as well mod me -1, Un-American if you wish.

fear mongering. plain and simple (2, Informative)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060634)

I live in brasil, never heard anything about cracker being responsible for the blackouts in espirito santo in 2007. to tell the truth, the first time i heard about it was on the web a few days ago, reading blog posts about the 60min report.

the minister of energy and the national system operator (the office that controls our power grid) already denied the "information" from the 60min show.

IMHO, it's just another piece of typical american fear-mongering, probably aimed at selling some incredibly expensive, over-complicated and completelly unecessary "technology" to the government.

more here [estadao.com.br] (in portuguese).

disclaimer: estadão is a reliable, reasonably unbiased brasilian news agency.

Why worry about the grid being attacked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30060682)

If the worry is about failure of the grid and how that will damage YOU personally - why don't you, in the Open Source Spirit - generate your own power?

Solar PV, Wind, even your own gas powered generator. Such will keep you in good stead when ice storms, high winds or even small airplanes take out the local power lines.

One giant vulnerability (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060830)

Only recently has there been any concern whatsoever given to securing the thousands of SCADA [wikipedia.org] links that monitor and control our electrical grid. The protocols are extremely basic, and anyone with a small amount of radio knowledge could easily override the point-to-point radio links commonly in use.

For instance, this substation [google.com] used to have a tower with a microwave SCADA link to Dominion's control point. Combine that knowledge with a little public searching of the FCC site, and you've got the exact frequencies used. It looks like they've abandoned the 10GHz microwave links, but I hope they're using dedicated fiber and not internet-based VPNs or the 950 MHz transmitter that uses 2k00A2D modulation.

Don't need hackers... (1)

Slipped_Disk (532132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30060890)

... here in NY our power grid is blown up by the trifecta of evil: Rats, Squirrels and Wind. If you want to spend trillions securing the infrastructure, make it rodent proof and bury it. (California is on their own -- the "bury it" idea doesn't work too well when the ground moves...)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...