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248 comments

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875335)

Never done this but zero comments

Oooh, ahhhhh, aaaaa (-1)

Genghis Troll (158585) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875344)

ungh, yea Jenna, you hot little slut, you. Lick her pussy good Briana.... uh uh unghh!!!!

Shit, that is going to stain.

Speech to text software is great.

Re:Oooh, ahhhhh, aaaaa (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875471)

ungh comma yea jenna comma you hot little slut comma you period lick her pussy good briana period period period period uh uh unghh exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point return return shit comma that is going to stain period return return speech to text suftware sucks.

Shocking (2, Funny)

Neppy (673459) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875345)

The insecurities in our power grid are quite shocking.

Hahahahaha (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875385)

Get it? Shocking! That's the most electrifying joke I've heard all day.

Re:Hahahahaha (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875412)

I hope it doesn't spark any further bad jokes.

Re:Hahahahaha (1, Offtopic)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875629)

Yeah, all these jokes are becoming a little revolting. I, for one, am shocked.

Re:Hahahahaha (4, Funny)

OpenSourcerer (515213) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875743)

The current problems with the grid are due to an un-ethical power struggle between the US and Canada. We need to phase into a system where a neutral party oversees the whole grid.
Ohmygod, this thread is sick!

Re:Hahahahaha (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875717)

Ohms, my sides. Amp I the only one who's laughing? Watts the matter with the rest of y'all. This is current, topical stuff here. Oh well, not everyone can appreciate the directness of this type of humor.

Scared yet? (4, Insightful)

krray (605395) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875348)

Wonderful -- as I read the article, plastered in the center of the page is the ad:

"Microsoft - Big business ambition. Small business resources. Get your FREE 6-month trial now. Windows Small Business Server 2003".

The very fact that the power grid, atm's, so on and so forth -- hell, I worked on the power supply to a embedded PC today for a newspaper printing press that had NT on it ... it frankly scares the hell out of me.

There I'll be sitting there in front of my OS X or Linux box. Can't be too smug I suppose with no power. No telephone. No gas. No cash to buy bread. Hell, the auto-checkout lanes (which I refuse to use on principle) at Jewel are Mickey-MouseSoft based. Certainly no Internet.

For my business' I absolutely refused to allow a Windows server of any type in the datacenter. I still say, "are you nuts?". Yet people still did it. Once again, Bill Gates will get a chance to screw us I guess.

So, when is the next worm due to hit? At least my TiVo will still work... :)

Damnit! (1)

thecampbeln (457432) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875373)

Where's "+1 Prophetic" when you need it?

the ad says it all (0, Redundant)

h00dLuM (630451) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875395)

Big business ambition,

Small business resources.

Re:Scared yet? (2, Interesting)

randyest (589159) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875526)

Best part of the article, and hilarious:

While legacy control systems are often UNIX-based ("Control-Alt-Delete scares power plant operators," Ahern said) and thus immune to MS worms and virii, their 10-megabit networking technologies can easily be overwhelmed. "Even the load from leading intrusion detection and monitoring systems can create a denial of service and shut these plants down," Ahern said.

Re:Scared yet? (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875553)

... it frankly scares the hell out of me.

Hey, it's not just the power grid and atm's. There are command and control systems used by the department of defense that folks have migrated to Windows. Our Dept of Homeland security has standardized on Windows. Certain FAA traffic control systems are running on Windows. The Army's Landwarrior program is using Windows. Traffic control for trains and shipping are running on Windows. etc...etc...etc...

This should scare the hell out of a lot of people.

Re: Scared yet? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875654)


> > ... it frankly scares the hell out of me.

> Hey, it's not just the power grid and atm's. There are command and control systems used by the department of defense that folks have migrated to Windows. Our Dept of Homeland security has standardized on Windows. [...] The Army's Landwarrior program is using Windows. [...] This should scare the hell out of a lot of people.

Yeah, but it's supposed to scare the other guys!

Re:Scared yet? (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875697)

Personally, it would scare the hell out of me if they were using Linux, or OSX, or pretty much any desktop operating system for life-and-death tasks. Modern OS's like these are just too big to trust with your life -- they've all got bugs, and none of them have had the kind of scrutiny that they would need. If your system absolutely cannot go down, you can't trust code written by dozens of relatively unsupervised people.

Re:Scared yet? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875590)

I take comfort in the fact that my OS code is written by a good, capitalist American engineer rather than some greasy little 14 year old "hacker" in Finland.

Re:Scared yet? (0)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875736)

What are you talking about? Wouldn't you be more worried about the fact that plant computers may be exposed to the 'net? What does NT have to do with it, since it was patched two months ago?

Re:Scared yet? (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875835)

I wouldn't even want to think about the beurocratic process needed to schelule maintinance on machine used to monitor safety systems on a nucular power plant.

Also none of this is new. ~10 years ago there were stories on how people were installing pirated games on power planet computers. And ~5 years ago they found drug parephenalia inside the restricted areas of a power plant in Ontario. Ohh yeah and lets not forget 3 mile island.. what was that? someone forgot to open a valve?

The power grid has been at the hands of the incompetant for years.

Re:Scared yet? (3, Informative)

itwerx (165526) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875815)

The auto-checkout lanes at QFC and Safeway here in WA state are Linux. :)
Now for those who read that article, here's a reality check.
I worked on one of the Y2K project teams that did high-level analysis for a number of midwestern power plants.
I can tell you that NONE of their control and monitoring systems were in any way connected to the Internet or even, usually, to any other networks internally.
The reason cited in every case was security.
The folks I worked with are called EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) [epri.com] and they are widely regarded as the world's leading authority on national and international power generation and distribution systems.
Check out their website, they often have some interesting white-papers available for public perusal.

We should all generate power (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875350)

In most states, if you generate your own power (ie solar), you can feed it back to the grid, and the electric companies are required to credit you! Any excess power you have can make you money. Sure, it's an investment up front to move to solar, but it is doable, and some states even offer tax credits.

Re:We should all generate power (4, Interesting)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875452)

Sure, it's an investment up front to move to solar, but it is doable, and some states even offer tax credits.


It's a nice thought but unless you live somewhere country-like, it's unfeasible to most people. Here's why, now firstly sure it is expensive to set up, but you would have to live in a geographically correct place as well. Say Florida, California, Arizona, Texas. States where it is rather sunny as opposed to say Seattle.

You could use alternatives such as windmills, but again you would need massive space. When I was in Sweden, the government there was trying to limit where windmills could be used, as they often killed birds, some of which may have been rare, or on the verge of existence.

I wish I wasn't too lazy and tired to offer links to prove my Swedish claims, but I'm sure anyone can find it on Google.

Re:We should all generate power (3, Interesting)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875537)

Always wondered why you couldn't just hook up say an exercise bike to a generator to feed the grid. Save money and stay in shape at the same time!

Re:We should all generate power (2, Interesting)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875632)

You're not the only one [gwi.net] who's had such thoughts...

Quantum windmills (4, Funny)

waynemcdougall (631415) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875552)

When I was in Sweden, the government there was trying to limit where windmills could be used, as they often killed birds, some of which may have been rare, or on the verge of existence.

On the verge of existence? That must have been Schroedingers' Bird - the last of which may or may not be going to have been eaten by a cat.

Re:We should all generate power (2, Interesting)

cheshiremackat (618044) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875752)

I just saw on TV (TLC I think) that Denmark was building wind generators offshore... Seems like a brilliant idea... use space that isn't really being used otherwise...

The only problem with the current electrical grid is storage... electricity cannot be stored (duh) so peak demand has to = supply or brownouts...

Here is my idea, we build a powerplant (hopefully wind/solar but nuclear is ok too) and hook the generator up to a hydrogen refinery (a la iceland)... that way the power can be stored (ok not perfect efficiency but still pretty good)... then when we need power we feed the hydrogen through fuel cells to generate power on demand...

The benefit is that we can build smaller plants b/c they can run all day long at 100% output b/c the output is stored...

The only downside is cost... but remember the current costs of power generation COMPLETELY ignore the environmental costs, which would be much lower if we used this wind/hydrogen idea

Re:We should all generate power (1)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875483)

Most US states offer a tax rebate of some kind or another for renewable energy.

In general, wind energy is more efficient when considering land/roof area and up-front cost. But that depends a bit upon your location.

The major recent (last 5-10 yrs) tech improvement has been in grid-tie inverters. Hell, the local REC (Rural Electric Coop) could stick a 500 to 3000W wind generator on every other pole in their district (in Oklahoma anyway), tied straight to the grid, and cut their upstream grid supplier costs by about a third within about 15 years, including up-front and maintenance costs.

Now, script kiddies, hack my fricking 50KW Bergey wind generator, eh?

Re:We should all generate power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875755)

I just don't think my landlord will let me set up a huge field of solar cells on his property. There is a lot of land here, so if he did, I might be able to produce enough electricity to run a lamp.

canada? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875352)

i thought this was all canada's fault.

Re:canada? (2, Funny)

metallicagoaltender (187235) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875421)

No, it was NASA's fault - when Canada sends power back down to us, it's in Canadian units. The boys at NASA just haven't mastered the concept of unit conversion yet.

Re:canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875531)

Just to be clear, because this 'fact' is thrown around a lot, it's not quite that simple.

Yes, metric and imperial were being used at the same time, and passed back and forth. The problem was that the conversion functions weren't flawless, and small errors from lots of conversions turned into big errors.

It's not a great excuse, but it's not quite 'Duh, what's metric?'

Re:canada? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875549)

which therefore makes it America's fault, because it's still stuck in the dark ages using imperial measurements when everyone else has switched to Canadi--I mean, metric units...

Re:canada? (4, Funny)

metallicagoaltender (187235) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875555)

No, it's a Canadian unit - 1 Canadian meter is only worth .8 standard meters. ;-)

Re:canada? (1)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875653)

My car gets eight rods to the hogs head and that's the way I likes it! -- Grandpa Simpson

Re:canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875655)

Yeah. Blame Canada!

I GOT A GREASED UP YODA DOLL SHOVED UP MY ASS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875354)

GO LINUX!

Re:I GOT A GREASED UP YODA DOLL SHOVED UP MY ASS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875770)

You too? What are the chances?

heh (5, Insightful)

Comsn (686413) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875360)

Says Skroch: "If you have too much security [i.e., no network connections], then the power plant probably won't work."

power plants worked long before the internet was created. no important computer controlling very important things should ever be put on the internet.

Re:heh (5, Insightful)

Steinfiend (700505) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875413)

I cannot agree more with this, it amazes me every time I hear of some important computer system being affected by an internet based infection or an internet routed hack.

Surely the only people who need to control a power plant (or dam release valves, or weapons sytems or whatever) are the people in the facility working at that time? So why have any type of network access to the system other than what is required within the grounds of the facility?

Of course I might be being naive, but I don't think so.

The case for remote control (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875484)

The valve at a dam probably doesn't need to be turned very often, so it's economically tempting to save the cost of 24/7 onsite coverage and have one central operations center.

Remote monitoring is all but imperative. The plants are already in a cooperative network sharing their power. Everyone on the grid needs at least basic information about what's going on.

None of which is ANY excuse for a direct or indirect connection to the public Internet. This is a job for a private network, and I don't mean a VPN that can be DOS'ed when a worm spreads through the public network.

Re:heh (2, Insightful)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875487)


So why have any type of network access to the system other than what is required within the grounds of the facility?

It is a matter of convenience to be able to access offices from other offices, as we as people have become so lazy due to the boom in computer usage. It is much easier to be able to perform tasks using computers rather than doing things manually, and depending on what job duties you have, it can actually be a bit safer for the worker. However, in my opinion, people have just become lazy as shit and choose to use machines as an excuse for avoiding working. I say this as coincidentally (while I watch the news) a reporter just stated that 90% of working people are unhappy at their jobs. So why take an extra step when a computer could eliminate five steps.

Re:heh (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875589)

It amazes me even more when a completely unrelated event happens largely due to the laws of physics and systems working as designed to prevent a major catastrophe that people blame the internet. I would much prefer a blackout to a power surge rolling back at three hundred thousand kilometers per second piping straight back into a nuclear reactor.

Save for the massive increase in demand for electricity due to the parallel increase in datacenters and personal computers plugging into the grid, there is no evidence whatsoever that the internet played a role in this or any other power outage.

Regardless, disconnecting from the internet will not prevent anyone from flying a Cessna through high tension lines, which all other things being equal in the current body of evidence, would have caused the exact same event.

Re:heh (4, Interesting)

delcielo (217760) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875786)

Economics come in to play here a bit as well.

The market for buying and selling excess power is VERY active and exists primarily on the internet. Multi-million dollar deals are made quickly, and while they can be made in advance, they may also be made at the whim of mother nature (excessive heat causing a company to purchase power, or a drop in temp making excess power available).

Implementing the deal means interacting with control systems. I will admit to ignorance of how this happens exactly; but I suspect that the traders aren't driving to the power plant or transmission control centers and doing it themselves.

For a company that has efficient generation, they can make a great deal of money selling excess power. This means their customers don't have to pay quite as much.

Here is the real issue: Everybody wants better security; but just tell anyone that you're going to have to up their rates to provide it and see what the reaction is.

Re:heh (3, Informative)

Jordy (440) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875591)

power plants worked long before the internet was created. no important computer controlling very important things should ever be put on the internet.

Network connections != internet connections. Current power systems have network connections since it is kind of nice to be able to monitor it from time to time. They typically run over fiber rings independent from the power grid itself.

Re:heh (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875740)

power plants worked long before the internet was created. no important computer controlling very important things should ever be put on the internet.

That's like saying that people lived just fine without electricity 200 years ago, so we should all stop using it now so we don't have to worry about blackouts.

Well, Stop the canadians! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875361)

The last two major power outtages have been the Canadians fault.. Make them use some other power grid..

Yeah (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875366)

You don't see us sharing grids with Mexico, do ya? They'd be down every afternoon to take a nap!

Re:Well, Stop the canadians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875375)

lol

USA uses power from Canada. It's not the other way.

Canada can black out the entire USA just by pulling a button.

You are doomed. I for one welcome our new canadian overlord.

Re:Well, Stop the canadians! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875425)

Canada can black out the entire USA just by pulling a button.

That'll never happen. Them canooks still haven't figured out how to push a dial.

Re:Well, Stop the canadians! (1)

metallicagoaltender (187235) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875446)

Well then it's a good thing that they only need to turn a _dial_, because I think almost any of us would get stuck trying to push one.

Re:Well, Stop the canadians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875528)

Evidently you're forgetting the 1996 blackout that Canada had nothing to do with... and then there was one in seventy-something... oh, and the ice storms a few years ago that Canada sure as hell didn't cause...

Disconenct us Canadians... (5, Interesting)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875641)

...and many of you are liable to freeze (or in southern parts bake) in the dark. If it weren't for BC Hydro selling power to California's PG&E over the common power grid on the west coast it would have been a certainty. Moreover, PG&E DEFAULTED on MILLIONS of dollars owed for said power to BC Hydro--so perhaps the proper term would be BC GAVE California power. Sooo...who uses who's power grid?

Also, before you start singing a round of "Blame Canada" it has been determined to a high degree of certainty by industry experts that the most recent power outage originated in the US (notwithstanding out boneheaded prime minister's impulsive comments on the matter before anything was determined). One thing is for certain--it was the Homer Simpsons on BOTH sides of the border that allowed the outage to propigate to the extent it did (operator error, scheduled outages that left the whole system running at capacity, etc...).

Deregulation has been bungled in its implementation all over the continent, but moreso in the US and particularly in California (well...EVERYTHING involving goverenment in California is royally fscked and has been for the better part of the last decade). The process was always politicised and the fledgling market manipulated by the established players and governments no matter where deregulation happened.

The concept is sound however...creaky old mandated monopolies should be broken up and the system made as open as technically possible to as many potential generation sources as possible. Decades of monopoly (in generation particularly) set us all up for the situation we are in now.

As a result, we presently have a handful of creaky, large utilities running creaky, large power plants with obsolete technology--and newer technology tacked on with duct tape and baling twine with little attention to stability and security. This has nothing to do with what country you are in--it is the situation continent-wide.

I've worked in the industry and have seen it first hand--and this was BEFORE the industry was deregulated (they still had several 1988-era 386s and a 286 in use--in 1996!). The argument then was that competition would compel established players to innovate and become more efficient. NOTHING has changed in these plants since deregulation--they are moving no slower OR faster in bringing new capacity to the grid. Only now demand has reached critical levels as predicted by some years ago. Only the argument has changed. Now instead of being the solution, deregulation is cited as the reason for problems (careless cost cutting rather than being sheltered from competition).

I'm astonished (but not entirely surprised) that since I was last in a power plant that there has been enough integration of critical systems into the general network that blaster-like infections could disrupt operations. Back in the mid 90's where I was, there were two distinct networks with NO connection at all (be it physical or not). If course, the 'net wasn't what it is now either and dozens of on-site employees had to rely on a 56k leased line for outside access.

Hopefully the blackout made everyone feel vulnerable enough to wake up and put at least as much or more into security and stability as they did into y2k compliance...

irony (0, Offtopic)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875364)

Was it just me, or did the link to that story contain an ad for Microsoft Server 2003? For all of you that didnt RTFA, this would be a good time to do so...its good for a laugh, in whats going to be a serious problem for all the crack(power) addicted unwashed.

Re:irony (1, Funny)

ejaw5 (570071) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875492)

Microsoft Windows: Where do you want to go in the dark today?

Re:irony (1)

mod_parent_down (692943) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875580)

I RTFA'd and I can't believe this even pretends to be "unbiased reporting." Now, I have no doubt that Microsoft ineptitude contributed to the problems described, but the article makes repeated accusations against MS while only offering one example of things gone awry. . . and that even sounds like more a result of inept administrators.

Put an inept linux admin at the helm and you're not any closer to preventing the kiddie r00t, let alone preventing "coordinated sophisticated attacks that would have extreme consequence."

The article tries so hard to make the case that the problem is software, where really it largely is personell.

Re:irony (1)

mod_parent_down (692943) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875628)

In fact, here's part of the Abstract from the Sandia Labs report he mentioned in the article cites:

"Many of these vulnerabilities result from deficient or nonexistent security governance and administration, as well as budgetary pressure and employee attrition in system automation. Also, the industry is largely unaware of the threat environment and adversary capabilities. Finally, automation administrators themselves cause many security deficiencies, through the widespread deployment of complex modern information technology equipment in control systems without adequate security education and training. Comprehensive mitigation includes improved security awareness, development of strong and effective security governance, and amelioration of security vulnerabilities through the careful configuration and integration of technology."

No mention of broken software anywhere...

Potential Social Implications? (0, Offtopic)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875367)

We must reflect on our transient nature that is so dependent on fossil fuel-based power generation. We must encourage the development of high-end fusion generating stations that will allow us to wrest away from the strangle-hold that the oil-producing nations have upon us.

It is only then that we reach our full potential in our academic and athletic pursuits which substantiate our integrity in the grand scheme of things.

Why must we fall in the trap of consumerism? Cannot we withstand the constant bombardment of commecial messages by the illicit corporations who have their own agendas?

Yes, we can and we shall. It is what makes us the leading society in the western hemisphere and as history as proved, it is our greatest asset.

But first... (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875496)

We must encourage the development of high-end fusion generating stations

First, you have to make fusion work. Just once.

+1 Interesting? Who's smoking the crack out there?

Re:Potential Social Implications? (4, Insightful)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875508)

It is only then that we reach our full potential in our academic and athletic pursuits which substantiate our integrity in the grand scheme of things.


Haha, what grand scheme of things?

Humanity isn't trying to reach for the pinnacle of its capabilities, it's trying to find more comfortable ways to live and fuck.

People want more power so they can do more cool shit, and do it cheaper. That's it.

Yes, we can and we shall. It is what makes us the leading society in the western hemisphere and as history as proved, it is our greatest asset.


Leading in all forms of waste and corruption. Nice example for the future. Here's a primer on human nature -- more of anything doesn't make people use it smarter, it makes them squander it faster. Western society is terrible for this.

Your post is an attempt to be modded insightful by using big words to sound profound. Nothing you've said makes any sense.

Make Fossil Fuels Open Source! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875597)

It is only upon that foundation of trust and willingness to sustain our future in the glorious educational and intellectual freedom that an army of proud revolutionaries will rise to top of our societies ladder rungs of success and contribute to the greatness that gave this nation its long series of past successes and aesthetically pleasing pastimes that the populace enjoy while feeling all of the pride that their powerful forefathers must have felt upon founding this wondrous democratically based republic which stands for liberty and justice in the face of fierce resistance from the global corporations that threaten even our way of life not to mention the delicate balance to be maintained with nature before our way of life can be sustained. You know they keep sneeking into my house and stealing my meds. They must do it at night cause I haven't seen them but they know I know they're doing it cause they left me a message that said yhbt. Oh and did I mention Open Source?

Re:Potential Social Implications? (1)

anarcat (306985) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875733)

...wrest away from the strangle-hold that the oil-producing nations have upon us.

Oil-producing nations.. you probably mean those nations [geohive.com] right? Well, looks like we'll get rid of the US in the third round eh?

The grid is over centralised (1, Interesting)

adeyadey (678765) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875372)

A fundemental weakness of the grid is its over-centralisation. Another argument for environmentally friendly local power generation schemes. Cover your house with "solar" roof tiles that generate power that is fed back to the local grid, etc..

Re:The grid is over centralised (2, Informative)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875771)

Covering your roof with solar cells is not a practical solution at this point. Covering your NEW house is. Retro-fitting tiles onto your house is generally not the easiest, cheapest, or safest way to generate power. The amount of tiles needed alone to power your house would be staggering, let alone the storage batteries, the need for the proper exposure (I believe that they reccomend a large southern exposure for most of the U.S. and Canada, for best results), or the power inverter which needs to be retro-fit into existing wiring.

New construction and large office buildings are where solar should be targeted. Also, these buildings should be routinely inspected to make certain that they are not feeding power back into the grid in blackout conditions. Hydro workers have a hard enough time during a blackout without worrying whether some good samaratin numbnuts has just energized the segment he's working on or not.

To feed the grid via private enterprise without safety precautions, well thought out implementation plans and regulation would be at best ill conceived, and at worst, homicidal.

If you want power during the next blackout, buy a generator, and for the love of god, shut off the main!

Re:The grid is over centralised (1)

cheshiremackat (618044) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875810)

'cept when that storm front comes through and all the power goes down b/c all your neighbours (the local network) goes down... Centralization = safety

Re:The grid is over centralised (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875836)

I laugh out loud every time I hear such tripe. Do you have any idea how bad for the environment the cretion of solar cells is?

Security Vs Usability (3, Insightful)

Admiral Justin (628358) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875393)

The article does bring up a valid point. Many times, when large systems attempt are forced into security by fear, they overdo it, and the system becomes nearly unusable to the users, who have to run around in circles with security measures.

The lesson? Security is nice, but lets not go biometrics and 30 different passwords just to check the email.

Stock up on booze and smokes (4, Insightful)

soupforare (542403) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875400)

"The situation is so bad, experts say, that bored script kiddies could soon be knocking out power stations as easily as they concoct viruses from toolkits available on the Web."

Is it any easier now then it has ever been? It always seemed pretty simple to me. Go down to your local, unmanned, power station and blow it up. Get your buddies and some trucks and knock down some high tension wires. wheeeeee.

Why do people get excited by this? It might be my misanthropic nihilism talking, but shit happens. Every day. Deal with it.

You might lose power, you might lose running water, you might get hit by a bus.
Even if you hole up in a shack to protect yourself from the script kiddies, psychopaths, terrorists and/or government... you're still gonna die!

Have fun! :)

Re:Stock up on booze and smokes (2, Funny)

swschrad (312009) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875417)

no, that's always been booze and guns and ammo. the survivalists always tuck away hooch and hoglegs... whiskey for trading, bangsticks for defense... with their six-month dry food kits.

now, now many valved gel-cell batteries should you stash to keep the MP3 server running when society collapses?

Re:Stock up on booze and smokes (1)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875724)

If we're really talking end of civilization disruption, and not one due to a transient riot/earthquake/brownout, then you don't want VRLA batteries. You want plain old flooded batteries stored dry that you can add water to, top off when too much water gets boiled off.

VRLA batteries are better for unattended operation, but if you want to play the survivalist's game, you need batteries designed for extreme long-term operation, and a charging/generation system to back it up.

The best set up would be a water-powered ramjet-type generator. You can divert a medium sized stream if you have enough height difference, and camoflauge the intake to prevent nasties from noticing you have a generator source.

The stuff you learn when planning a RIFTs campaign...

Re:Stock up on booze and smokes (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875668)


> You might lose power, you might lose running water, you might get hit by a bus. Even if you hole up in a shack to protect yourself from the script kiddies, psychopaths, terrorists and/or government... you're still gonna die!

Yeah, but we don't mind if they pry the internet out of our cold dead fingers. We just don't want to have to do without it while we're still alive!

Re:Stock up on booze and smokes (1)

delcielo (217760) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875822)

You might lose power, you might lose running water, you might get hit by a bus.

Indeed. I often find myself reminding people of this.

It's a weird and messy world: water falls from the sky.

Well, what did they spend all my payments on... (5, Insightful)

BSOD from above (625268) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875403)

The power industry needs to be reinvesting profits in infrastructure (powerlines), not stock dividends. The same companies should have been upgrading their command and control systems to prevent chain reaction blackouts. Am I expected to believe the computer systems that manage the cooling rods in the nearest nuke plant are secure?

Seriously consider the economic impact of the grid failure compared to the recent worm problems. Then think about a nasty combination of the two.

Spent on Enron-style energy trading companies (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875480)

It used to be that the utilities were highly regulated entities that had their profit margins basically regulated by the states they were in. They had to provide a given amount of reliability, and rate increases (and occasionally refunds!) were carefully scrutinized as to where the money went. You couldn't raise rates without showing some meaningful improvement that resulted from it.

Then along came degregulation, where the power seller and the power generator became two different things (which makes even less sense than the deregulated-but-shared local phone loop). Utility companies wanted out of the power generation arena -- too expensive, too many regulations, it was better to be in the new "commodity" end of the business, arbitraging power. So they split themselves into trading companies and generation companies, taking all the cash into the trading companies, who were deregulated and could spend it freely.

And then 10 years later, Enron and the whole deregulated power "market" has collapsed, and we wonder why we're 15-20 years behind the curve on power grid and other key infrastructure elements. All the money got spent on speculating in the newly deregulated power markets, and its all gone.

Nobody really pays any less for electricity, I don't have a bunch of people knocking on my door offering me their window electricity or biodiesel electricity or their pig shit methane electricity for that matter.

I only have the sheepish looking local utility trying to explain to me how they're trying to fix the power infrastructure built in the 1970s with the cash made in the 1980s which was spent in the 1990s on the promise of getting rich in the new millenium. When in fact, they actually need me to pay the prices of the next millenium for the service delivered in the 1990s, and, oh, would I please only use as much power as I did in the 1970s?

Is Linux the latest "silver bullet"? (4, Interesting)

KNicolson (147698) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875404)

That article read a bit like an advertorial for Verano (some Linux SCADA security company), with the "Oh, if we only had Linux all this wouldn't have happened!" conclusion.

However, reading the text, the problem seemed more that the plant operators had indiscriminately attached critical systems to the Internet without proper firewall security in place, which seems to me to be a human, not a computer or OS, flaw.

Re:Is Linux the latest "silver bullet"? (1)

trompete (651953) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875601)

It's too bad that people still connect systems to the internet without any kind of firewall.
Let's be serious though...joe schmoe with his cable modem should be able to plug his computer directly into the internet without having to worry about it getting compromised. In the perfect let's-hold-hands-in-a-giant-circle-jerk world, this would be true. Linux may not be the silver bullet, but it certainly gets exploited a lot less that its friends. On the other hand, that could be attributed to the sheer volume of Windows machines out there.

Re:Is Linux the latest "silver bullet"? (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875776)

On the other hand, that could be attributed to the sheer volume of Windows machines out there.

This is almost certainly the primary reason. How many people actually keep up on all the security problems in commonly-installed Linux software? (It's harder than windows security flaws, because generally the Linux problems don't get posted to the /. front page a dozen times.) Now, imagine that everyone who uses Windows today was using Linux. Do you really think that the patched/vulnerable ratio would be any better?

To be honest, I don't keep track of security updates too well. (Although I don't leave anything open except ssh, so at least my exposure's not too big.) An up-to-date, well-administrated Linux (or other Unix) box is probably a little more secure than its Windows counterpart, but both are more secure than the average Linux or Windows system. The operating system being used has little to do with the security risks.

Re:Is Linux the latest "silver bullet"? (1)

sys$manager (25156) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875614)

The only firewall fit for the link between the Internet and a SCADA system is an AIR GAP ffs.

Re:Is Linux the latest "silver bullet"? (1)

donnz (135658) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875651)

seems to me to be a human, not a computer or OS, flaw

Actually it seems to be the MS mantra at the moment. "Darn those pesky humans, without them our OS would be perfect."

Leave Power Grid alone you big meanies! (4, Funny)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875409)

Well of course Power Grid is feeling particularly insecure right now. I mean it's old and weak and obsolete and just got caught with it's pants down a few weeks ago. That kind of spectacular failure is bound to make anything or anyone feel pretty insecure. I doubt the last thing Power Grid wants is to have its insecurities examined publically! C'mon, people, let's not kick it while it's down!

Reversing polarities (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875410)

I read that if you take the positive end of a power grid and a negative and switch them it will cause a massive outage. To do something as massive it would need to be done on the big power lines that typically run allong highways.

Re:Reversing polarities (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875707)

Or you could let the current alternate between positive and negative voltages JUST LIKE IT MOTHERFUCKING DOES THAT'S WHY THE FUCK THEY CALL IT ALTERNATING CURRENT YOU DUMB FUCK!

dUmbfUCk iS 0N Teh sP0kE!

Don't kid me... (0, Offtopic)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875436)

Legacy systems, for example, may have been designed to run on private, 10-megabit networks, and as such, lack even basic security features such as firewalls.


Come - on! I grew up in Alfalfa County in Oklahoma. Serviced by the Alfalfa County Rural Eelectric Cooperative, fed by the GRDA (Grand River Dam Authority), OG&E and others. If those some of daughters have any net connectivity at all, it's likely to be based on dial-up modem tech, not even basic TCP/IP. After dialup, satellite connections were probably next and may still be the main choice for connectivity in all but the populus urbs and suburbs. Most of USA's power is source through rural areas anyway. I have extreme doubts that the majority of the carrier lines have direct net connections.

But, I guess this plays into the problem. You get some government regulated utility and interface it (in a few, key places) to the net at large and, coupled with the years of assumtion (in software) of a private connection and yes, the script kiddies could easily run amok.

I wouldn't have said nor believed the shite I'm spouting now, had it had been for the recent northeast blackout. Now I don't trust the national grid very much at all.

Re:Don't kid me... (1)

the_other_one (178565) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875497)

You don't need a direct net connection to get infected. All you need is for the PHB to bring his infected laptop in from home.

Re:Don't kid me... (1)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875506)


Come - on! I grew up in Alfalfa County

As long as your mayor isn't named Buckwheat,or Spanky, you should not be ashamed to live in Alfalfa. (*points and laughs*)

wait one second (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875453)

I don't blame microsoft for this. The idiot who decided to build their core infrastructure on windows is the idiot that should be fired. What the world were they thinking. Oh wait, they weren't thinking. I can understand a personal workstation using windows, but a critical piece of hardware that manages the power grid on windows.

Did anyone bother to think critically about this? Did anyone voice a concern about the potential dangers? Did they really believe Microsoft's marketing? Lets consider the following facts. Telecomms use strictly Unix and not windows for a good reason. 1. windows isn't reliable enough, 2. windows can't perform under the immense load, 3. windows isn't secure, 4. any script kiddie can own you, even if you apply every freakin patch, 5. it will cost you your job when it fails.

CIO's should know well enough that there are hundreds of brilliant young hackers who can hack into just about any system they want. I know this from first hand, since I knew quite a few hardcore hackers who were 12 and already knew 5 programming languages. In fact all of them could write some hardcore particle animation in pure assembly and could read machine code. Most of them quit hacking when they turn 17-18. I would say these kids are typically in the top 5% of all programmers young and old. A couple of them were caught by the FBI for cracking software and selling it to bulletin boards, but most of them were never caught. The whole idea that hackers some how wouldn't find it interesting is totally denial. These kids love to hack for the challenge and getting in and out of a system undetected is a huge thrill.

Very nice commercial (3, Interesting)

cspenn (689387) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875464)

... for Verano.

And if you connect ANY critical operating system to the Internet, frankly, you're insane. There's no sensible reason to do so. Monitoring your systems is fine, that's what a management network is for... but the actual core of the critical system should be as close to that powered-down concrete encased computer as possible.

Garbage (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875479)

Did anyone actually read this garbage before they posted it. This is absolute nonsense. The blackout had _nothing_ to do with computers, much less internet security. The blackout happened because a half-rate utility (First Energy) tried to squeak through an emergency without buying expensive power or shedding load. Period. They operated lines until the sagged into brush. Some small subtransmission and distribution lines had twice rated load. Do the math. That's four times the temperature or over 400C. That had zippo to do with M$ or any bleepin' computer.

Legacy = Semi Safe, Microsoft = Unsafe (4, Interesting)

Bruha (412869) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875498)

Legacy systems will provide more resistance to viruses than any MS based system mainly due to the lack of coders with the knowhow to write viruses for such systems. Though when paried next to and on networks containing Microsoft based systems a MSVirus could cause havoc just by crippling the network that those systems rely on.

In any case a system using NFS/NIS would be especially vulnerable to traffic floods by MSVirii due to the lockups that can happen when high traffic causes such file/security systems to fail.

I've seen flapping interfaces on certain cisco equipment that have made messes of NFS and NIS based systems requireing a total reboot of the entire network from the top down. And the flapping can be caused by recent MSBlaster virii that has recently seen action.

As a safety precaution the legacy networks should be extremely firewalled, and not allowed to work on any shared media that also caters to any Microsoft systems. Such seperation of the network would prevent either from spamming the other to death. Also in many critical areas private networks with private loops vs being carried over the internet should be considered with backups such a MicroWave or Sattelite communications to critical centers in case of any large infrastructure outages in your carriers network.

The whole grid is vulnerable! (1)

digidave (259925) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875500)

I'm sure the government will step in and ensure changes are made before we have a massive blackout.

Power Grid (4, Informative)

hardburlyboogerman (161244) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875504)

I have taken myself off the grid years ago,using Solar,Wind,Hydro power(tapped into the abandoned Hardburly Deep mine and using the water to generate power) and have a 20kw diesel generator for backup.
Most of the power grid problem stems from the fact that very little maintainence is being done.The Power lines out here have been here since the late 1950s or early 1960. Every time it rains,you can watch an electricial light show less than 50 ft from my home.(Phone calls to the power co.does no good,so I informed the Public Service Comission about it,sending a video tape of the light show.AEP now has 10 days to change the lines out or get fined to the tune of $50k/day!)
Greedy utilities have brought this on themselves.Cutting jobs for the maintainence personell,doing nothing about aging lines, and then asking "WHY is this happening?

"We call ourselves Homo Sapiens Spaiens.Our true name should be Home Stupidus"

Re:Power Grid (2, Insightful)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875674)

"Most of the power grid problem stems from the fact that very little maintainence is being done."

"Greedy utilities have brought this on themselves.Cutting jobs for the maintainence personell,doing nothing about aging lines, and then asking "WHY is this happening?"

There is nothing wrong with the "old" lines. The distribution grid carries some rated voltage and does it without much complaint. The problem is that there simply isn't enough of it, so most of the system is running at design capacity, and a small failure can cascade into a widespread failure.

There isn't enough distribution capacity primarily because of NIMBY. Power companies around the country want to build more capacity. Most of the time they must spend years battling the locals for right of way. Environuts are often blamed unfairly when locals couch their resistance in bogus environmental claims, but the truth is that it's just NIMBY.

And it's maintenance.

MS Blaster is NOT at fault!! (3, Interesting)

edison490 (551402) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875556)

I work for a utility in protection and process engineering and we do not have any remote ability to change settings. As stated in the comment section of the article control and protection systems do not normally have any remote access even to on-site network operators. This philosophy protects everyone from the utility (employees/technicians) to the customer.
One key issue that seems to be on everyone's mind is the latest MS Blaster virus, could it have caused the outage? Not likely. As stated above our protection and control systems send data via leased phone lines and/or private fiber and do not have any connection to the Internet. Thus no possible way of receiving a virus.
Finally, to all of you who are dying and just can't understand why the investigation is taking such a long time...hang on! Part of my job is to study disturbances on the grid (ie why did the lights go out?). The studies take anywhere from a day to months to explain what happened. And remember the 1965 blackout study took over a year to finish.

MS Blaster Could Have Been At Fault (1)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875732)

As far as I'm concerned, this is the big news to come out of the whole incident, and it's apparently being suppressed by the mainstream media - the MS Blaster Worm could have caused the blackout. Here's what the article has to say on the subject, referencing problems with an earlier worm at a nuclear plant:

----

The Slammer worm penetrated the plant's internal network and lodged in an unpatched Windows server. The worm's scanning slowed the internal network to a crawl, eventually crashing the plant's Safety Parameter Display System, according to reports.

While legacy control systems are often UNIX-based ("Control-Alt-Delete scares power plant operators," Ahern said) and thus immune to MS worms and virii, their 10-megabit networking technologies can easily be overwhelmed. "Even the load from leading intrusion detection and monitoring systems can create a denial of service and shut these plants down," Ahern said.

Even though DOE and other sources ruled out cyber attack as a cause for this month's blackouts, Ahern said that control systems are so wide open that no one has the data to credibly make that determination.

----

How long is it going to take for our corporate clowns and the government it bought & paid for to realize that Microsoft Windows is a collection of security holes with a pretty front end? Is it going to take something even MORE spectacular - nuclear meltdowns, planes falling out of the sky, chemical plants belching toxic clouds - before the pinheads in power wake up to the danger Windows represents?

Windows is a proven threat to every other system and device on the Internet or connected to anything on the Internet - even devices which themselves don't run Windows. The government should be mandating that Microsoft institute a crash program to close ALL of the known security holes and obvious vulnerabilities in Windows, and to do so immediately. Close all those damn ports already, and kill all the useless services and the ability to run code from the fucking e-mail program. It's not like M$ doesn't have a few billion to burn mailing patch CDs out to all of its customers.

Thanks, but the real scientists already did this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875570)

This research was done years ago, and everyone in the power business knows how antiquated our power grid is. It's basically at the same level it was back in the 60s except a lot less power was being used back then. The power experts have been imploring the govt to do something but as usual they never do unless a disaster strikes.

Finally... (2, Funny)

rune2 (547599) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875635)

A vurnerability that isn't Microsoft's fault. I suppose that we could blame them anyways though.... just for the fun of it.

"Virii" (2, Informative)

jemfinch (94833) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875687)

Maybe I'm just being an anal-retentive grammar Nazi, but I simply can't respect an author who uses the non-word "virii" in his works.

Sorry. It's simply not a word [perl.com] . He might as well be writing in l33tspeak.

Jeremy

Roage systems on the Internet (Byond Microsoft) (0, Troll)

Felinoid (16872) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875692)

We know the big problems we are facing today are due to Windows worms.

Don't ever plug a critical system into the Internet please. Even if we remove every last Windows system that wouldn't make it safe.

Maybe this is a good thing that we have so many poorly designed Windows systems on the net today. People will learn not to trust the network and be prepaired for worms, viruses and all sorts of madness.

But let's say 20 to 50 years from now there is no Microsoft and the populare operating systems are BSD, Linux, MacOsX and Solarus. Save the day? Nope.

While there is no excusing a sloppy a major product operating system like Windows you will always find systems just as bad or worse.

OS/65, Lunix and a whole batch of operating systems exist that could present a horrific nightmare of problems. They are not powerful they run on low end computers and are made entirly for project systems.
You will always find one such system running someplace at some time for some reason. Not just poorly designed commertal systems or obsolet versions.

You'll have improperly configured Gnu/Linux boxes, Obsolete Solarus boxes, Linux code poorly patched to run on BSD (not the BSD porting team), Any system with the security disabled for admin or user convence, neat hacks and cool projects that aren't ready for prime time, "my sons wifes great aunts dentist says...", "I saw it on Slashdot" (Or the slate or 10 o clock news), "Your firing me? Fools!! They'll rull the day they desided to mess with the BAFH" and Collage student with very populare website desides to post a link on his very populare web forum to your cool website and all you have as a screen saying "/. Error"

That's only the warm up act (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875751)

The software and management side don't tell the whole story. Combine that with the power grid physical security and infrastructure issues and then you have a glimmer of how thin the electric thread we depend on really is. That's not being paranoid, that's being practical. It's a challenge from a cost position to be completely grid independent, no matter where you live. But it is feasible, at least technically, to be less grid dependent. The best cost/benefit balance I've found is to have enough wattage to run the refrigerator, water pump, computer (of course), furnace fan and some lights. Doesn't leave enough juice to run a central A/C, clothes drier, or the other big draws. You really learn just how much electricity we use when you design an alternative power system. And it costs a lot of money.

Data Networks & Realtime Requirements (2, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 10 years ago | (#6875805)

From the article:

The worm's scanning slowed the internal network to a crawl, eventually crashing the plant's Safety Parameter Display System, according to reports.

[snip]

Control systems operate in real time, where processes, availability, and reliability are paramount.

So they are imposing realtime requirements onto a shared medium (a computer network)? That's like not putting lights or sirens on emergency vehicles, and then complaining about not being able to get to the scene in time during heavy traffic.

No wonder virii can cause so much damage to the power grid. The whole thing was badly designed to start with!

Windows an INDIRECT cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6875825)

Everyone here seems to be to focusing in on Windows as a DIRECT cause of the outage... which isn't likely, of course, but what of an indirect cause.

The transcripts I saw talked of computer outage of systems that were MONITORING the grid, not controlling it. They said they couldn't see what was going on, not that they couldn't control it. Could the "non-essential" monitoring systems be networked but the control systems not be on the Internet?

It still looks like it could be that the worm caused a significant problem when some of the other power authorities could of worked around the cascade if they had notice... and if the companies could of seen what was going on they could of given that notice.

Possible?
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