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$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the power-up-the-manhunt dept.

Power 111

An anonymous reader writes "The Associated Press reports that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has put up a $250,000 reward for 'information leading to an arrest and conviction in a startling attack mounted nearly a year ago on telephone lines and the power grid in Silicon Valley.' Besides cutting power lines, the attackers also cut AT&T fiber-optic phone lines, thereby denying some people access to 911, and fired shots into a PB&E substation, knocking out 17 transformers in Silicon Valley and causing $15 million in damage. As of this post, the perpetrators are still unidentified and continue to elude the FBI. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."

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111 comments

Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | about 4 months ago | (#46727307)

Linky [sfgate.com] linky [go.com] .

there is a man called (0)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 4 months ago | (#46727487)

Morpheus .. and trinity and the etc .. who have to occasionally take down power grids . they live somewhere in the maintenance line.

Why? (4, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#46727347)

. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack.

Because nobody will take security seriously until something bad happens? And once that something bad happens there will be plenty of people screaming, "False flag!"

Re:Why? (-1)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 4 months ago | (#46727369)

Should we worry about things where nothing bad ever happens?

Re:Why? (1)

MiniMike (234881) | about 4 months ago | (#46727469)

We should worry about where bad events could happen.

How much we should worry depends on the probability and the scale of the impact of the bad event.

Re:Why? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#46728127)

How much we should worry depends on the probability and the scale of the impact of the bad event.

This was mostly like one drunk teenager. To extrapolate from this one-off incident, and conclude that we need to spend a trillion dollars to harden every piece of infrastructure is silly. People are advocating the spending because they hope to get a slice of it. If we are going to spend money to harden our infrastructure, we should be focused on high probability incidents like lightening strikes, and not bullets. The bullet problem should be dealt with by making it more difficult for teenagers to buy beer.

Re:Why? (2)

dlt074 (548126) | about 4 months ago | (#46728321)

"This was mostly like one drunk teenager. "

i wish you were right on this. this attack was no drunken stunt. it was deliberate and calculated. i advocate hardening our vital infrastructure and i don't get any piece of the pie. the power grid goes down for any length of time, people are going to die.

ignore and hide from the facts all you like it won't change the fact that people around the world wish to do us harm and are working to do so.

Re:Why? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#46728537)

it was deliberate and calculated.

The people spinning the "deliberate and calculated" interpretation are the same people that benefit from increased security spending. According to William of Ockham [slashdot.org] , it was a drunk teenager.

Re:Why? (2)

Some_Llama (763766) | about 4 months ago | (#46730595)

drunk teenager is not the answer with the fewest assumptions if you take into account the facts.

"involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service in the area and firing shots into a PG&E substation."

how do you get drunk teenager from that? from your years as a wild youth coordinating safe ingress and egress from locations allowing deliberate phone line sabotage and long range high powered rifle targeting intermediate power supply stations on a whim after too many beers?

the only razor applied here was the one to any hint of sanity.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

cusco (717999) | about 4 months ago | (#46729009)

The morons of the Survivalist or Militia movements could take down the entire US electrical grid tomorrow were they able to stop fighting amongst themselves long enough. A score of more-or-less simultaneous strikes like this spread at random across the country would crash the grid, hard. You don't need inside information, deep understanding of the power distribution system, electrical engineering training, financing, or high tech weaponry, nothing more than a watch, a deer rifle and a vehicle to get you there. Electrical engineers have been complaining about this for well over two decades, but since making the grid more resilient will cost money the suits don't want to listen. If Al Qaeda were really what the gov't has tried to convince us they were you'd be without power several days a week.

Re:Why? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#46729199)

The morons of the Survivalist or Militia movements could take down the entire US electrical grid tomorrow

Yet there is no evidence that they are planning to do so, or that they have any motive to do so. The plan you describe would require the covert cooperation of hundreds people that you describe as "morons", without a single one leaking the plan. How likely is that?

Electrical engineers have been complaining about this for well over two decades

Chicken Little has been making predictions even longer than that.

Re:Why? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 4 months ago | (#46729459)

Hundreds? How many people do you think it takes to fire a hunting rifle? Or did you not know that A Score = 20?

There are a LOT of people who dislike the US at this point, including Mexican drug cartels, survivors of US military massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian mafiosos, and a number of governments, and we're not making any more friends either. Of course there's also the possibility, no, the certainty of another Carrington Event. For that matter, currency and futures speculators could make a (quite literal) killing, and have never shown any hesitation to destroy the lives of millions for their own gain. Not revising the grid to make it more resilient pretty much assures that it will happen.

Re:Why? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#46729599)

Of course there's also the possibility, no, the certainty of another Carrington Event.

There is also the certainty that their will, eventually, be another school stabbing like we had this week. So should every student wear a hockey mask and knife proof vest? There are BILLIONS of places where a rifle shot could cause damage. Yet it almost never happens. Lightning strikes are a thousand times more likely. Instead of trying to think of a million scenarios where a trillion in spending could prevent some black swan event, it would be far better to spend that money on flexible rapid response repair teams (useful for lightning strikes as well as drunk teenage "terrorists"), general law enforcement, mental health programs, etc.

Re:Why? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 4 months ago | (#46729841)

Lightning strike is a point event, a local area disrupted temporarily. Remember the big blackout in the northeast a few years ago? Most of the physical damage was repaired or re-routed around in a day, the reason that it took a week for power to be fully restored is because it takes that long to recreate and rebalance all the energy flow. It's almost all manual, very little automation in the process, and entailed overtime by all the available specialists in the field throughout the entire region, bringing them in from outside the region, and even calling in some retirees. Now imagine doing that over a region 20+ time that size, assuming that there are even spares immediately available for all the destroyed equipment.

No, we don't put kids in body armor, but we don't let them carry rapiers any more, either.

Re:Why? (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | about 4 months ago | (#46730619)

"There are BILLIONS of places where a rifle shot could cause damage."

damage in the thousands? how many places where it would cause damage in the tens or hundreds of millions? 1000?

100k to harden each place preventing it and saving lives? that's only 1 billion spent, .01% of a yearly federal budget and well worth it...

but if you feel superior throwing around your favorite term "drunken teenager" i guess post more bullshit.

Re:Why? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#46727639)

If you don't design security in when you build critical infrastructure, and take proper security measures along the way, you open the door to bad things happening more easily.

Re:Why? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#46727721)

The tricky part is what constitutes 'proper' security measures and how those weigh against other factors.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#46728035)

"More easily", sure. But if somebody is willing to cut cables and shoot guns at equipment, it is more reasonable to worry about catching them afterwards than preventing it. Making the entire grid literally bullet proof is a preposterous idea.

I've been thinking about this a lot as I listen to Kevin Mitnick's autobio, Ghost in the Wires. He devotes his entire life to circumventing various defenses, then laughs at everybody for being 'so easily' fooled. His entire view is basically juvenile - that everything (such as the phone system) just naturally exists and ought to be perfect, so it's amazing if he can prove otherwise. When in fact nobody ever said it was. All the stuff that exists and usually works is just the product of mostly ordinary people doing their 9-5 jobs and trying to keep the wheels turning until their shift ends so they can go home and do something else.

Re:Why? (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#46730207)

" Making the entire grid literally bullet proof" is a straw man. Nobody is thinking of that, and it isn't really possible. What is possible and reasonable is hardening critical infrastructure, improving redundancy, and making it easier to repair. If all you are prepared to do is cut cables and shoot a high power rifle that isn't going to get you very far very quickly against some elementary precautions for various parts of the infrastructure.

Re:Why? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46727739)

Depends on the consequences of something bad happening.

Finding out the next flavor of Ben and Gerry's ice cream? Not such a big deal.

Finding out exactly where you can strike critical infrastructure by getting your report about how vulnerable the critical infrastructure is? Absolutely.

If you knew that the information was sensitive, and you didn't safeguard it ... then, I would argue you really missed the point.

Re:Why? (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#46728225)

TV news is generally forgettable, but two TV news reports from the '90s really stood out for me:

1. After a series of brush fires considered likely to be arson, a reporter stood in front of a canyon, named the location, and reported the fire dept was saying it would be particularly dangerous if someone started a fire in this canyon or others similar to it, because of reasons X, Y, and Z ...

2. After several kids were hospitalized after ingesting jimson weed tea, the news report warned kids not to make jimson weed tea by showing pictures of jimson weed, talking about where it typically grows, which parts of the weed are used, and then saying the side effects include hallucinating for days.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46730533)

Not much, the chances of being killed by a terrorist is 20 million to 1.
You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane
You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack
You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack
You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack
You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack
You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack
You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack
You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist
You are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack
You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

Re:Why? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 4 months ago | (#46730859)

It is 20 million times more profitable to finance weapon industries by going to war and preparing for attacks, than it is to encourage people to jog daily, except in very hot weather.

Thus "War is a Racket" (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 4 months ago | (#46733787)

By Marine Major General Smedley Butler: http://www.ratical.org/ratvill... [ratical.org]
"WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. ..."

Of course, "heart disease" is a racket too these days:
https://www.drfuhrman.com/libr... [drfuhrman.com]
"The sad thing is surgical interventions and medications are the foundation of modern cardiology and both are relatively ineffective compared to nutritional excellence. My patients routinely reverse their heart disease, and no longer have vulnerable plaque or high blood pressure, so they do not need medical care, hospitals or cardiologists anymore. The problem is that in the real world cardiac patients are not even informed that heart disease is predictably reversed with nutritional excellence. They are not given the opportunity to choose and just corralled into these surgical interventions. Trying to figure out how to pay for ineffective and expensive medicine by politicians will never be a real solution. People need to know they do not have to have heart disease to begin with, and if they get it, aggressive nutrition is the most life-saving intervention. And it is free."

Possibly could draw an expanded parallel between "terrorism" and "heart disease" as far as causes and cures? As in invading Afghanistan and Iraq was like giving a world with morally-clogged arteries an angioplasty and then a triple bypass? At great costs? And without really solving the underlying problem (from past short-sighted behavior by the USA and others)? While people who sell arms and people who own domestic oil sources and drilling equipment (Bush friends?) profit greatly from all the uncertainty?

Re:Why? (0)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#46727483)

We all should ware Kevlar vests to protect us from shootings. Those who got killed and didn't wear a Kevlar vest is their own damn fault.

You find a flaw, you report it. If they choose not to act and something goes wrong, it is the guys who failed to take actions fault, with the guy who did the crime, you end up the Hero. If you find a flaw and exploit it. It is all your fault, and you are the villain.

Re:Why? (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#46727649)

Security is a design principle not a fashion statement, and good practice in dealing with critical infrastructure.

Re:Why? (2)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 4 months ago | (#46727489)

It's human nature. We are reactive.

Re:Why? (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 4 months ago | (#46728315)

The best predictor of the future is past experience.

Re:Why? (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 4 months ago | (#46729283)

Hence the expression: Live and learn.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727629)

And once that something bad happens there will be plenty of people screaming, "False flag!"

I can't imagine how anyone could ever think something like that, it's not like people at Enron were recorded cheering for power lines getting cut. Oh wait...

Re:Why? (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 4 months ago | (#46728313)

We have managed to survive many many years without doing much in the way of protection. Why do you have a belief that the future will be any different from the past?

Re:Why? (1)

Giblet535 (3480751) | about 4 months ago | (#46729279)

Because the US is urinating in someone's bowl of corn flakes every five minutes.

Retaliation is inevitable.

Maybe we should focus on what we can do: end the cronyism in DC and defend our borders. We can afford to do that.

Re:Why? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46732875)

Because nobody will take security seriously until something bad happens?

Well, no. It's because the document wasn't actually sensitive. Anyone who actually might want to cripple our infrastructure already knows how to do that, because they have access to satellite imagery like everyone else. Also, not being complete fucking idiots, they know how to read the reports that all corporations are required to file which include information on things like new construction projects, including their function and location.

The truth is that most U.S. cities get their power via just one or two links, and the locations of those links are extremely well-known. If anyone wanted to cripple our infrastructure, they could have done it already.

Now, the fact that our power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack, that is a factor of nobody taking security seriously. But then, that's because efficiency is more important, because there are so few actual threats to security. As it turns out, one guy in a pickup truck can cripple a city's ability to function. You don't think that any enemies could muster those kind of resources? Nobody is even trying.

On the other hand, there's lots of good reasons to secure our power infrastructure from domestic criminals. But I'd prefer to reduce the production of those criminals by overhauling the system to reduce or eliminate the poverty industry. It's better to make the world a better place than to make the world a safer place for shitheels to be shitty, which is where focusing on defense gets you. Let's focus on cooperation.

Link? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727355)

Download link to the "sensitive document"? 8)

Re:Link? (3, Funny)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 4 months ago | (#46728155)

Here you go [wordpress.org]

$250k? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727393)

That's it? Some people in California make that much in a week. This also should be considered terrorism, (the real kind, not the fake boogeyman kind), so it should the the Gov offering rewards - not private entities.

Re:$250k? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 months ago | (#46727625)

Hm. $250k per week is 'only' $13M per year.

Lots of CEOs in CA make that. In fact, all of the 100 highest paid CEOs make that.

http://www.aflcio.org/Corporat... [aflcio.org]

It must be good to be a gangsta.

Re:$250k? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#46727759)

Yes, but for most people in california that would represent several years worth of income, and since rewards generally try to attract the attention of as many people as possible in the hopes someone knows something, 'does not appeal to wealthy people', who, by definition, are rather rare, is not a big concern.

Re:$250k? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 4 months ago | (#46728187)

Id say lets take a look at the groups that are slashing google bus tires, This sure sounds like something those kinds of people will do

So they fix the barn door after the horse gets out (1)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46727419)

The insecure media are still out there. No redacting that (unless it's on the web, of course; that's even worse [archive.org] .

Re: So they fix the barn door after the horse gets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727529)

What on earth are you talking about? These criminals cut actual physical fiber lines and cables. Securing your server doesn't stop a guy with a baseball bat from smashing it.

Re: So they fix the barn door after the horse gets (2)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#46727775)

I think the poster was referring to the FERC trying to redact and re-release a document when it is already out there in its original form, thus the action is meaningless.

Re: So they fix the barn door after the horse gets (1)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46727813)

Thank you.

PB&E? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727429)

Please correct this to PB&J.

Thanks!

Re:PB&E? (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 4 months ago | (#46727623)

you mean PG&E unless there is some subtle joke which I'm too dense to get. (or how about for those old enough to remember the fictious CG&E that managed the ill-fated Ventana power plant).

That much? (2)

korbulon (2792438) | about 4 months ago | (#46727431)

I could fund a trip to Mars with that kind of cash!

cut power lines? wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727449)

kinda wish the bad guy got shocked when he/she cut the power lines. don't those lines have 120 volts or higher?

Re:cut power lines? wow (1)

kqc7011 (525426) | about 4 months ago | (#46728141)

The recently laid off workers knew where to cut and what to shoot. At least, according to some of the more believable rumors.

Re:cut power lines? wow (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 4 months ago | (#46728481)

Not sure exactly what lines but, if I remember right, distribution lines are in the 13kV range.... you don't just "cut" them with a pair of dykes. The result of the connection being disrupted can generate some amazing sparks. Electricians who work on circuits like that wear protective suits:
https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

Simplified "homeland security" (2, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 months ago | (#46727545)

Get rid of most of the useless garbage and institute a simpler system:

1. Declare certain sites strategic risk sites which means their security personnel have heightened authority to detain and shoot suspects similar to sensitive federal facilities.
2. Encourage said site operators to hire US Army and USMC veterans.
3. Arm said veterans with selective fire weapons and have them regularly patrol these sites.

Faster, cheaper and more accountable (private security guards have no qualified immunity).

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727621)

Bonus points for bypassing warrants, courts, evidence, and trials. Pesky things that apparently the words "homeland security" trumps.

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 4 months ago | (#46727657)

Actually I prefer more of their profits going into maintenance such as clearing tree branches growing into power lines, replacing sagging lines and decaying poles. Infrastructure! It's what keeps this country going. Wasting on more on security for something that happens very rarely is not good investment into future (but hey like most Americans don't think of such things).

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#46728371)

The thing I get is why not just have the government run security for them in the first place?

That's what I don't get about breeder reactors. People argue that terrorists will get their hands on weapons-grade materials. So instead we plan to bury tons of waste underground if we ever find a place we can store it, at a cost of billions of dollars.

It would make a lot more sense to just stick the breeder reactors in the middle of army bases. Security isn't THAT hard of a problem since we already guard actual functional nuclear warheads. Surely if the terrorists can't get their hands on those, we can protect some fuel located in the middle of a reactor core under boiling water which is only n% weapons-grade material.

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46729055)

It's probably because the "problem of proliferation" is repeated over again as if it were a mantra. The purpose of mantra is to transform the practitioners mind. Proliferation awareness has now transcended most parts of the population to a whole new level of being.

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (0)

eric_harris_76 (861235) | about 4 months ago | (#46733997)

Fort Hood, for instance, would be an excellent choice.

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728559)

I agree that killing more people is the most obvious solution to most social problems.

Re:Simplified "homeland security" (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 months ago | (#46729261)

1. Declare certain sites strategic risk sites which means their security personnel have heightened authority to detain and shoot suspects similar to sensitive federal facilities.

Oh, you mean like the constitution free zones [aclu.org] which are at the border and cover the majority of americans? And that was recently upheld in court? [foxnews.com] I'm sure that will never get abused by the government.

If these Republicans actually wanted... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727563)

to stop these attacks, they wouldn't have waited until over a year later until after most of the logs have been deleted, and in many cases, employees have left. Instead, they fraudulently claim to be against shutting down the grid while behind closed doors supporting shutting down the grid. They hate the people in CA and want to punish them. That is why they are doing this.

Re:If these Republicans actually wanted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728367)

[citation needed]

Arabs? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727601)

Ya, Arabs.

Re:Arabs? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#46727891)

Or right wing anti-government groups, or left wing radical environmentalists, or some random cult, or some kind of false flag that quietly got dropped instead of milked, or some really dedicated jerks with too much free time. Or maybe time travelers who realized that the particular security station in question was going to be the first network node to become sentient and send humanity down a the long dark path of extermination thus they took it out first. Heros I tell you, heros!

Re:Arabs? (1)

g8oz (144003) | about 4 months ago | (#46728677)

or how about the SF anti-gentrification movement that seems to be targeting tech workers?

LOL (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#46727767)

These attacks have cost them 10s to 100s of millions. Yet, they are only willing to put up .25M. This shows how poorly ran American companies are today.

Re:LOL (2)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 4 months ago | (#46727955)

These attacks have cost them 10s to 100s of millions. Yet, they are only willing to put up .25M. This shows how poorly ran American companies are today.

The amount of money they offer for a reward only has to be high enough to make it worthwhile for someone who has information to come forward. The amount of money they lost in the attack is really irrelevant. It's not like they'll get that money back if there's a conviction.

Re:LOL (1)

Yebyen (59663) | about 4 months ago | (#46727961)

But you could get $50 and a pizza party... with a chance to win an iPad!

Spin the wheel! Weeeeeewwwow!

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727973)

For providing "information leading to an arrest" - I think 250k isn't a bad deal. If on the other hand, they said "bring the guy bound and gagged to us, and deliver millions of dollars in recovered moneys from his basement", then maybe it would be worth a few mil.

Just because they receive some information doesn't magically make their costs disappear - they still have to locate the guy, gather evidence proving that he did it, and prosecute him. And that's just the criminal part - there probably isn't any use in suing him civilly as he's probably some angry hick with a gun and no money anyway.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728037)

You're an idiot.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46729869)

If you're suggesting they should pay significantly, more, that is also idiotic:
That would potentially incent someone to do it again so someone else could claim the reward money..

Why not more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727787)

Since 9/11 I've been surprised that some terrorist group hasn't performed an attack on the electrical grid in the USA.

Think of a guy in a van at the Mexico border. He drives north, and every time he goes under some power lines, he finds the nearest pylon and plants a timed bomb on it. Once he gets to the Canadian border, he vanishes, and that night at midnight, all the bombs go off, thereby seperating the West and East coast power grids. Of course, smaller versions of this could be done as well (say, drive in a big circle around Las Vegas, or any big city, doing the same thing). Simple, effective, and requires little risk, and no complicated equipment- just explosives and timers.

Re:Why not more? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#46727921)

Given the size of transmission-line towers, the guy in the van would need a rather large bomb to actually make the tower collapse. Multiply by the number of towers he'd need to destroy, and I think that one van might not be large enough. Also, getting your hands on that quantity of explosives isn't easy or cheap.

Re:Why not more? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#46728121)

Given the size of transmission-line towers, the guy in the van would need a rather large bomb to actually make the tower collapse

Nah, if you know your stuff, it takes quite small amount of explosives properly placed to bring down something like those towers.

Re:Why not more? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46728201)

Not really, just a roll of det cord and some foil backed duct tape with a box of fuses.

In the west in rural areas, getting your hands on that is relatively simple.

It does require training however.

Re:Why not more? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 4 months ago | (#46727925)

They lack imagination. Even simpler and more terrorizing would be Mumbai style attacks. 20 terrorists willing to die could cripple this country for weeks and cost us billions and billions by just murdering random people and trying to keep doing it as long as they can.

But they want big, showy, single-event terrorism.

Re:Why not more? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#46728691)

The train system is even more vulnerable and more accessible for mayhem with less risk of accidental electrocution.

Re:Why not more? (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 4 months ago | (#46728767)

The simple truth is that most people are too busy trying to run their own lives to go around making other peoples miserable. Of those who are determined to do so, most either become traffic wardens or run for political office.

more corrosive than ACID!more destructive than TNT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46729547)

Since 9/11 I've been surprised that some terrorist group hasn't performed an attack on the electrical grid in the USA.

You don't consider Enron a terrorist group?
You really should get evaluated for Stockholm syndrome.

Re:Why not more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46731341)

because it's not really a problem and the billions we've wasted in fighting it is just that: waste. there are tons of little random acts that could cripple major areas for days on end, but they never happen because it's not a problem. the only time we ever hear of a "busted" terrorist nowadays is someone trying to buy something in a bullshit sting operation, where i'd bet most times they were probably even hesitant at first then coerced by the undercovers. pathetic really and somewhat deserving of the next real attack.

Revenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727797)

What was the name of that IT PG&E employee that went berserk a few years ago? Maybe he got a gang together...

Oceans the next one (1)

paysonwelch (2505012) | about 4 months ago | (#46727859)

I just assumed this had to do with a heist that went un-reported. E.g. they had to take out the power sub-station before cracking another criminal's safe or something.

It was Justin Beiber. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46727863)

No reward money required. You're welcome.

It's obvious who's responsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728123)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkey_Wrench_Gang

If terrorism/sabotage was a real threat... (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#46728175)

...wouldn't we have seen it by now?

Despite the alphabet soup of government agencies, surveillance and Federal laws, America is a pretty easy place to move around and generally maintain a low profile. And many "critical infrastructure" sites really aren't well defended/guarded -- take your pick, a handful of people with nominal skill and training could cause all manner of chaos.

If the risk of attack was really that great, why haven't we seen it by now?

I always hesitate to ask this question and post too many specific examples for fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention, but let's just take oil refining as an example. The last time they closed a refinery down for maintenance two states away, the price of gas here shot up quite a bit -- we all hear the stories about inadequate refinery capacity. So what happens if 3 or 4 refineries go offline at the same time in close geographic proximity? Are we talking just a buck a gallon price hike, or are we talking shortages worse than the infamous 1970s gas lines along with all the attendant economic disruption?

I think if there were people intent on doing real damage, we would have seen it by now. It's a trivial armchair exercise to think of things that make you go "whoa!" And if you think of actual, organized sabotage involving direct state sponsorship and not just theocratic nutjobs the scenarios get even worse because you're now talking training that goes beyond emptying AK-47s in the desert.

Re:If terrorism/sabotage was a real threat... (1)

sixsixtysix (1110135) | about 4 months ago | (#46731371)

Or random, say 2-3, car bombs going off in major cities over a couple of days. If placed in the right spot, they could cripple those economies for weeks. Rinse and repeat every couple of months.

It is really sad all the money that we waste, when most of it won't stop something so miniscule yet effective.

Considering what it cost to put that op on (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46728185)

considering what it cost in terms of training, logistics, coordination, surveillance, and equipment to do this, the reward is not very much.

The op itself cost more than that, all those things considered.

Oh, by the way, no, you're not safe.

Ever.

There is no such thing as safety, only living in fear because you want to believe in magic rainbow unicorns.

FIND THEM (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 4 months ago | (#46728247)

Then give them a medal for exposing, yet again, the criminally shoddy work of a corporation that managed to explode an entire neighborhood.

Re:FIND THEM (1)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#46728373)

the criminally shoddy work of a corporation that managed to explode an entire neighborhood.

I don't think, it is fair to accuse a corporation of "shoddy work", when it took an armed group — sophisticated enough to be still at large — to cause the mayhem.

Or do you want each power-transmission mast to be guarded by soldiers? What about fiber-optic cables, which were cut — should that too be patrolled by the military — the alternative to "corporations" you despise so much? To me the "cure" you are implicitly proposing — nationalization of power- and Internet-infrastructure and heavily armed guards for all facilities — is worse than the disease.

WHO's the REAL threat? hmmmmmm?! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 months ago | (#46729615)

I think he's saying a lazy, greedy, corporation [google.com] is more dangerous than 1000 imaginary terrerists.

It was me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728311)

Now where do I collect my $250K

Re:It was me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46728945)

please show up in person to collect your reward at United States Penitentiary, Atwood

Putting toothpaste back into tube? (1)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#46728337)

Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."

A little late to be scrubbing them now that the information is out there... Better begin addressing the enumerated problems ASAP instead.

Video (1)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#46728803)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

I read a discussion online that taking out key substations in the LA asre3a would collapse the grid, it's amazing just how vulnerable we really are.

Imagine LA with no power for 2 weeks.

Re:Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46730585)

If the federal government didn't show up within a couple of days to maintain order and keep food supplies going, I'd be surprised if anyone was still alive after 2 weeks.

People vs. property (1)

slipped_bit (2842229) | about 4 months ago | (#46728843)

There is a $250k reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this property damage case. Meanwhile, there is a $10k reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for firing at least 13 shots (and counting) at people along a highway (http://www.kctv5.com/story/25225197/detectives-tracking-75-tips-about-highway-shootings). It's a weird society we live in.

Re:People vs. property (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#46731717)

There is a $250k reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this property damage case.

Well, that's because PG&E cares. Who cares that people get shot at on the highway?

So, how bad was it? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46728885)

$15 million in damage, but who lost power and for how long?

Well designed systems have redundancies. Go ahead. Shoot out a couple of transformers. We'll just switch sources. The interesting thing will be if this reward gets someone caught. That might be the best economic solution. There's only so much security you can build in to a system. But if it becomes known that you will be caught, and possibly based on evidence provided by your co-conspirators, people will think twice before pulling this crap.

As to the loss of 911 service, Century Link just did that to us in Western Washington. Who gets the reward for turning them in?

I wonder what the reward was... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 4 months ago | (#46728911)

...when Enron attacked California's power grid.

Re:I wonder what the reward was... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#46731745)

I wonder what the reward was...

Pretty damn high. Enron went bankrupt anyway.

How many... (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 4 months ago | (#46729555)

How many muslims can there be in California?

250K reward. (1)

hackus (159037) | about 4 months ago | (#46729625)

Why not call the Feds and ask them what SEAL team they sent for a "dry run" wouldn't that be faster?

All of that wasn't the ends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46732443)

It was the means. That's obviously a cover for something else that happened during the same time frame. What that might possibly be, I couldn't say.

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