A former secretary of homeland security believes there is an 80-90% chance that a cyber-attack on our grid will happen.
Ted Koppel, renowned broadcast journalist and anchor for Nightline for 25 years, recently published a book about the lack of preparedness in American when it comes to cyber-attacks and our power grid. The book is called “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath” and is a culmination of his investigative reporting regarding the safety of our power grid and the possibility of falling victim to cyber attacks.
His results were less than comforting.
Yesterday Ted Koppel was interview on KUER, a radio broadcast out of the University of Utah. In that interview, he spoke of how it is hard to convince people about certain things if they believe otherwise, even if their beliefs aren’t true. For many, they don’t believe a major cyber attack on our power grid is likely, so they don’t believe contrary reports, and therefore don’t prepare ahead.
Koppel brought up the recent government hack by China in which 22.1 million government official records were stolen. That’s a big deal, and yet he said “we kind of just shrugged and moved on.” If China can do that, they can certainly remove our power.
Now, Koppel doesn’t believe China will go to that extreme, but there are surely other nations and extremist groups out there that would.
If our power grid does get attacked and we are left without power, we might be left to our own devices for weeks or even months. If this is the case – and all evidence suggest that it will be – we will need food, water, medicine, and other necessities to last us as long as we’re left in the dark, if not longer.
As a nation, are we ready? According to Koppel, “we really aren’t prepared in any sense.” He calls us a “reactive society,” meaning we do not tend to be preventive in our actions, but rather decide what to do after an event, not before. When the grid goes down, it will be too late to prepare, no matter how fast we react.
While we like to think the government will step in and lend us aid, that way of thinking could lead to some very uncomfortable months following a disaster of this scale. There won’t be enough supplies stocked up by government agencies to see all of our needs. After all, there are just under 320 million people in the United States. Caring for all of them would be quite an undertaking, and quite frankly, it’s not one the government seems to feel responsible for.
And should they? During an emergency, your best bet is to be personally prepared. Even if the government had help coming, it could still take days or weeks to reach you, despite their preparedness.
Koppel continued this discussion of preparedness by pointing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The LDS Church, Ted Koppel found, recommends its members to have at least three to six months’ supply of food and water, and not just for a potential grid failure. This storage is to be proactive for anything that comes along, including job loss, disability, and other natural disasters - which includes a cyber attack on our grid. Koppel praised the LDS Church for their preparedness mindset, and said that they “stand as an example of what can be done.”
The LDS Church isn’t providing these emergency supplies to the members, but each individual family is responsible for their own stewardship. You, too, can take the responsibility on yourself to prepare for your needs and those of your family. It takes some planning and budgeting, but it is very doable.
Ted Koppel concluded his interview by saying there is value in the act of preparation itself. We need to be ready for all kinds of disasters, and each subsequent step we take will only leave us better off when something does come. Finally, he believes it is harmful to not talk about the dangers we may face. Preparing in advance is discussing plans, solutions, and potential issues we may not be able to prepare for once a disaster happens.
What are your thoughts on a cyber-attack on our grid? What are you doing to prepare?