Cyber Attack on U.S. Grid Would Be Devastating; Trojans, Malware, Trapdoors Already Exist

by | Jan 16, 2011 | Emergency Preparedness, Headline News | 31 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    Computer expert, author and technical trend forecaster James Martin says what many others, including ourselves, have warned about for quite some time.

    The electric and utilities power grid of the United States is completely unsecured and vulnerable to attack via the internet:

    There is quite a lot of evidence that people have been hacking into the American grid, and probably the grids of other countries too, Martin said.

    In the American grid they’ve found quite a large number of Trojan horses and trap doors, they’ve found quite a lot of hidden malware, not coming from the States but coming from somewhere outside the States, he said.

    If you knocked out all the power in America, it would be devastating. Normally when you get a blackout it comes back very quickly but there have been some that don’t. If it was a deliberate attack, then the people attacking it would try to do damage that could not be repaired quickly, he said.

    If they caused the grid to crash it would be much worse than 2008. This is known today, but what I find rather alarming is that although it is known the authorities are not really trying to stop it by making it secure.

    Certainly an outside entity could have a capability today to send many different malware messages into the grid at the same time in such a way that you could take down most of the grid, and may be all of the grid,he said.

    The grid is full of huge transformers and pumps that are one off, which means that if you knock them out you can’t go and buy them off the shelf. If you picked out the things that could not be bought or not replicated quickly, and there a lot of those, then that would be damage that you couldn’t repair quickly.

    ‘You have a large amount of company-to-company automation and all of that could be put out of operation. If it was put out of operation it could do immense financial damage, enormously greater than the 2008 crash,he told The Independent.

    Source: UK Independent

    Forget about financial damage – that would be the least of our worries if the power grid was attacked in any sort of meaningful way. A complete power grid failure, or one that took out large regions in unison would put a complete stop to commerce across the North American continent. Yes, there would be financial damage, but more importantly, there would be no way to re-supply our just-in-time inventory systems. That means there would be no gas, no food, and no way of getting those things delivered until the grid came back up.

    As Mr. Martin points out, a coordinated attack focused on the ‘one-off’ elements of the grid would mean that once that hardware was destroyed there would be no way to replace it quickly. And that means not days or weeks, but potentially months, perhaps even years before things were back to normal. When Hurricane Ike rampaged the Houston, TX area in 2008 it took down 95% of the metropolitan grid. This author was about 25 miles north-west of Houston at the time and can attest to the difficulties utility workers had with restoring power. It took over 3 weeks to get power running to the outlying areas of the city – and it would have taken much longer had those repair workers not traveled from as far as Florida to assist Texas. Now, consider if a disaster that took out the grid included not one, but several regional areas, where no workers would be able to come assist.

    At the time of the Houston-area outage the first things to go were water, food and gas. Fights were literally breaking out at local gas stations. Those with home generators found them useless, as there was no fuel to keep them going. Grocery stores did not have reserve power, and those that did had it for maybe 12 hours, at which point all refrigeration came to a halt. City water filtration was non-existent, and “Boil Water” notices were posted all over the city – but there was no electricity available, so only those lucky enough to have fuel reserves for their generators or those with natural gas powered stoves were able to drink clean water. Luckily, this only affected a single major city and surrounding areas, and within a week water and emergency rations became available.

    Consider, for a moment, the ramifications of a full-out extended down-grid scenario affecting multiple regions. It would be much like an EMP attack, though some electronic systems may remain operational. Nonetheless, researchers have estimated that a worst-case EMP scenario could lead to 90% casualty rate over the course of a year. We would hope that a grid-attack could be resolved much quicker than an EMP attack, but there would likely still be mass casualties as food stocks ran low, emergency response personnel stayed home to care for their families and violent crime and looting ran rampant.

    How susceptible are we?

    This is a topic of debate. Most of those people who have the power to harden and secure our grids will take no action until after a wide-scale event were to occur – at which point it would be much too late to do anything.

    A close friend works for a large power company in the north-east. It just so happened that we had this very discussion a couple of weeks ago. He is a higher level executive at the company and when I asked how secure his company’s grid was in the event of a solar flare, cyber attack or EMP attack he responded, “Officially, we’re prepared to handle whatever comes our way. Unofficially, it will be a complete and utter disaster and we are simply not equipped to handle a mass failure.”

    It is common knowledge that many elements of the U.S. power grid are decades old. We hear about smart meters being installed, but according to the friend at the power company, the smart grid portion is less than 1% of the complete grid. That means 99% of of the physical grid is essentially running on equipment that has been around since the 70’s and 80’s. All of that old equipment is plugged into computer systems, and all of the computer systems are plugged into and fully accessible via the internet.

    According to James Martin and other computer experts, our systems have likely already been breeched and there is a real and serious possibility that trojans, malware and trapdoors have already compromised our systems. They may very well just be sitting there waiting to be activated, at which point they could launch a massive, coordinated cyber attack on essential parts of our power grid infrastructure.

    We’re not just talking about software glitches that can be fixed with a quick reboot. We’re talking about cyber attacks that target the physical hardware.

    Hard to believe that a computer program can destroy hardware? Think again.

    Consider the Stuxnet worm that was recently used to take down 1/5 (or more?) of Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to the New York Times, the Stuxnet worm utilized advanced programming to remain dormant for a time, and once launched, attacked the physical centrifuges used to enrich uranium. While the worm spun centrifuges to the point they destroyed themselves, a portion of the program responsible for sensors and warnings sent human operators and monitoring systems the green light that everything was running like normal. Iran’s nuclear plants,  much like the power grid of the United States, utilized old computer systems that were simply not equipped to handle advanced cyber-attacks that utilized 21st century cyber combat techniques.

    There are plenty of enemies of the state who could bring down the US power grid infrastructure – China and Russia to name just a couple. And it’s no secret that the Chinese have been having their way with our networks for quite some time, so it is clearly a real and present danger. The US government regularly runs tests to Simulate Cyber Attacks on US the Internet Infrastructure.

    In 900 Seconds: Cyber Attack Wouldn’t Take Long to Bring Down the USA, we previously outlined how a cyber attack might play out based on a report from Richard Clark, a one-time counter terrorist specialist with the US government:

    In his warning, Mr Clarke paints a doomsday scenario in which the problems start with the collapse of one of Pentagon’s computer networks.

    Soon internet service providers are in meltdown. Reports come in of large refinery fires and explosions in Philadelphia and Houston. Chemical plants malfunction, releasing lethal clouds of chlorine.

    Air traffic controllers report several mid-air collisions, while subway trains crash in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. More than 150 cities are suddenly blacked out. Tens of thousands of Americans die in an attack comparable to a nuclear bomb in its devastation.

    Yet it would take no more than 15 minutes and involve not a single terrorist or soldier setting foot in the United States.

    The threat is real, and if it were to ever occur, it would likely come around the same time as an attack on our financial systems – which, as we saw in the May 2009 “fat finger” controversy that brought the stock market down 1000 points in a matter of minutes, is not so difficult to accomplish.

    The biggest concern for the average American should be that there is really no emergency response ready to deal with the possibility of a wide-spread power grid cyber attack. The US government has specifically said, through FEMA, that they will not be able to help everyone in the event of a major emergency (think Hurricane Katrina). That means  you need take responsibility for yourself and family now, and Be Prepared to Be Without The System – Make It A Policy.

    What will you do if there comes a time when there is no electricity, no gas, no clean water and no access to food for several weeks or months?


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      1. FEMA is not in the emegency business anymore.   They are in the business of identifying and suppressing domestic dissent. (Tea Party members are a top prioity)  

      2. No country can take us on head to head  at the moment.All are aware that the way to take down the US is through nontraditional means. As is what the article states. Our relationship with China will turn sour and become more intense as time elapses. Our Government knows quite well the there will be an engagement with China in the not to distant future, as does China also. Both countries wont elaborate on that, due to not wanting to startle the masses.

      3. You would have to be incredibly stupid to have any critical systems connected in any way to the internet.  

      4. It  would sure solve the social security and the medicare deficit.

        Who dies first? the old that are sick, then the old ,then the very young and the list goes on.
        A good cruel virus would do the same thing a lot cheaper and would leave nothing left but healthy slaves with lots of money they inherited from their dead parents and grandparents. Think of all those HD motorcycles and motor homes that would be for sale. 

        It would be hard to pinpoint who did it but we could blame the Chinese or even mother nature.

      5. Comments…..This senerio has been on my mind on and off for the past couple of years.

        I am as prepared as I can be at this point in time.  I will keep on prepping for the future. 

        I did promis my husband that I would give up prepping if nothing happens in the next 2 years, 2013.  But I wont give up my guns/ammo, or my food stores, or my extra clothing/tools.  I would give up my doom/gloom theories.

      6. Comments…..youcancallmeray said:
        It  would sure solve the social security and the medicare deficit.
        Who dies first? the old that are sick, then the old ,then the very young and the list goes on.
        A good cruel virus would do the same thing a lot cheaper and would leave nothing left but healthy slaves with lots of money they inherited from their dead parents and grandparents. Think of all those HD motorcycles and motor homes that would be for sale.
        It would be hard to pinpoint who did it but we could blame the Chinese or even mother nature.
        During the Spanish flu pandemic, (1917-1920), between 50 to 100 million people died and 500 million were infected.  It didn’t matter who they were young and old alike died….the healthy and the unhealthy died.  This was a natural disaster, and there’s no doubt in my mind that another pandemic could be unleashed in the not too distant future.
        Having no electricity would definitely be a disaster for everyone because we are dependent on it for survival – except for the Amish.  But even so they do go to hospitals where there’s power being used.  No one gets out of this living easy.

      7. I’d be unable to read sites like this one. I’d lose contact with some of my friends. Otherwise I’d be fine.

        Unfortunately for the 98 % of the population who don’t prepare the Power Elite’s plan to have a 90% die-off would claim many of the most vulnerable. Many sheeple have the intellectual and financial resources to optimize their outcomes, if they act now. Problem is they’ve been so adroitly brainwashed that they think preparing is some kind of religious right plot and that [I] we [/I] are the people who need rescuing.

        This isn’t college or a debate at the local think tank. Some endeavors, such as farming or the military, have only one chance to “get it right.” If their vision is skewed, or their facts wrong, the consequences are severe. Most of the sheeple live lives where myriad “do overs” are possible, and upon which latitude they depend.

        Reality is a harsh taskmaster.

      8. @Mona – I am with you on that one. I will never give up my ammo, weapons or food storage even if my wife wants me to. She rides me like a bull at the rodeo some days on the subject but I just tell her that beans are better than poo when your hungry regardless if you like em or not today. We were laying in bed the other night and she said I saw your bullets in the drawer and I can’t figure out why you would need those. I said those aren’t bullets those are 00 buck and slugs for the 870 under the bed. The bullets are for, and I pulled out the h&k in the headboard. I said if you didn’t want a former Marine for a husband you should have married a gay. I asked her, when do you carry a weapon before or after they bust in the door and take what they want? I personally thinks its best to just put it all out there and let them decide for themselves whether they stay or go. I did and she is still here.

      9. Anyone read about the new high capacity gun magazine bill to be presented to Congress this coming Tuesday ?

        Not only does it propose a ban on the import and manufacture of all magazines that hold 11 or more rounds in the U.S. , it also would ban the sale and/or transfer of these type of magazines currently available.
        If you are considering the purchase of these type of magazines you may see a buying frenzy begin, as other last minute shoppers decide to stock up just in case this bill gets signed into law. I remember when 100 round C-mags for the AR 15 were selling for $550 before the 1994 Crime Bill sunset in Sept. 2004.
        Sportsmans Guide was selling these mags last Christmas for $100 ! I’m sure those mags will be gone sooner than later with the release of this magazine ban news.

      10. God bless the Marines (before all F.I.N.E. political correctness comes out).

      11. @ wheedle, Yep I heard. Spent my allowance at Magpul (again)

        @ everyone else. Your own government will manipulate the grid and blame it on an enemy of convenience (real or imagined) like the Tea Party, Ron  Paul, or maybe even those pesky right wing conspiracy theorists. LOL. The gullible will not survive the new war on terror.

      12. I’ve got 400 gallons of propane to fuel my 17kw Siemens generator. That will buy me some time.  Some of us will make it through. Propane doesn’t deteriorate like gasoline. That’s why I chose the fuel sourse.

        Can your foods.  When you can chile drench the ground beef in boiling water to remove the fat.  Be sure not to introduce fat to the  lid surface.

        You can can butter.

        Chicken or turkey is the best meat to can. Less fat.

        I have dehydrated potatoes.


      13. What again? Gosh we need a national ID system to stop this……Obama   /sarc\
        Plenty of other answers like service and utility provider creating a private/secure network instead of being cheap and using the web.
        If you depend on the PTBs you are a slave to them, Get independent!

      14. Comments….. When the lights go out get yourself some of those little tea light candles they work for a while and if you can boil your water with propane gas thats good too. It might be a good idea to Grow your own food supply as well seeds will be worth more than gold…

      15. All of our wonderful, amazing, technological advances that have been made over the past 150+ yrs have culminated in the system we have at this very moment.  An infrastructure so fragile that commerce would come to a complete stand still with a large scale interruption of electricity.  What happens if a solar flare takes out an entire hemisphere of a powergrid and a quite a few of GPS / communication satellites with it?  We have vulnerabilities that man can exploit as well as acts of God himself.  Sooner or later electricity will be affected on a large scale for some reason.  What happens to all of our electronic wealth in that scenario?  9.5 times out of 10 I use my debit card.  Hard habit to break, to shun the plastic and deal in cash.  Savings accounts, checking accounts, investment accounts… what happens to all that money if servers were to crash or fry in a large scale powersurge or power outage.  Doesn’t sound like a good scenario to me.  I am trying to go back to basics as much as I can, little by little, to simplify my life as much as possible.  Any one know how banking was conducted before the internet.  How were balances, debt, deposits, and withdrawals kept track of exactly back in the day?

      16. And now China’s president states that the present U.S. dollar-dominated currency system a ‘product of the past’ ……watch out folks. It coming soon

      17. I was just watching a show on t.v. this weekend titled “The crumbling of America”.  It showed how deteriorated & outdated our entire road, bridge, levy, sewer & electrical grids have become.  Many of the systems in use today are decades past their life cycle stage.   

        America used to spend 12% of GDP on infastructure… currently it’s 2%  Ironically here we are building infastructure in Iraq that we bombed the hell out of while our own infastructure continues to decay. 

      18. Comments…..r&ragai,  To answer your question regarding banking I can only give you my own experiences. 
              First one did their banking face to face with a teller, people would even stand in the line of their favorite one.   That favorite teller would also take your savings account ‘passbook’ and update it with interest accurals.  
               Most everyday spending was done with cash.  You were the person who was responsible to daily update your checkbook and maintain its accuracy.
                Instead of an ATM you would go to the bank and write a ckeck for ‘CASH’ once a week.  
                So, in general ; (1) people took time and responsibility for their banking; (2) people used more cash than checks; (3) banking was a ‘face to face’ way of business.
                Many writers on this site advocate as I do to stack and store PM’s.  If you have PM’s in various forms hidden for emergencies, shouldn’t you also have cash hidden for the same purpose?  I hope these thoughts and comments were of some help to you.  BeWell

      19. I’ve got 400 gallons of propane to fuel my 17kw Siemens generator. That will buy me some time.  Some of us will make it through. Propane doesn’t deteriorate like gasoline. That’s why I chose the fuel sourse.


        Don’t get too comfortable.  A 17kw propane generator will use almost 2gal/hr on 50-75% load.  400gal is fine if you only expect a week or two outage.  Much longer than that, and you’re out of the power business.  Some sort of renewable source is the only way to go if it’s a true grid down situation versus a short term, local storm.

      20. Comments…..Sounds alot like the Y2K scare that turned out to be bullshit. Don’t forget to stock up on beanie babies. They will be as good as gold.

      21. Think 1kw or 3kw tri-fuel generator to run off propane.  Big is not better unless your talking about a propane tank.  Wood stove or kerosene to keep warm.  12 volt marine reversible square box window fans or portable/window a/c to keep cool.  A 1kw will run a 5000btu a/c now days.  A 3kw will drive a tv, light & a/c easy.  Do you have a 12 volt generator TA?  Very efficient to bulk charge. 

      22. fuel renewable up that ‘ol still gramps..
        half the cars today are already running on 15 or 10%..and they are pushing for more.

        Older carberated engines can be jetted to run exclusively alcohol, if its proof is up high enough.
        the old ford 4 bangers of the 20’s and 30’s could almost run on anything..kerosene, lamp oil, alcohol..the firstCommercial “flex” fuel vehicle was the model T…it would run on 100% ethanol..
        i bet some of these small engines can be adjusted to run on 100% moonshine…corn squeezins..vegitable distilled grains.
        Oh yeah im sure there are laws against this, and it would be done or enforced in the guise of illegal alcohol production..
        but when the grid goes down, who in their right mind is going to be the enforcer at that point?

        Ya’ll know how to operate a still , right?
        some corn mash, sugar , yeast and a barrel to let it ferment before cooking it aint rocket surgery.
        probably could produce enough for critical engine fuel needs..not going to be taking the Escalade to the mall with what you produce, but you might get a few hours of a generator running to get some more important tasks finished.

      23. Ray:  I am 67, in good health but who knows I could die tomorrow.  I have had or been exposed to swine flu three times, because of my age of course.  I have also been exposed to many variations of the flu.  It is simply incorrect to say that the “old” people will die from some kind of pandemic.  Very old people do indeed die from seemingly simple things but typically this has more to do with all their other problems.  In pandemics it is the very old, very young and unhealthy who die the most.  So you could be left with the exact opposite of what you described, that is older people living in their homes and most of the young people have died.  Just saying…  

      24. @Montana Mike,

        Thanks for the reply.  I have some PM’s (can you ever have enough?) Cash is scarce, but I should.  That is something that I have thought about for awhile now but have not acted on.

      25. Cynical Optimist beat me to it (see above).   Our infrastructure is crumbling right before our eyes, even without being attacked.  There are areas in the country that struggle with daily power outages; other areas have major sewage failures.  Watch that History Channel documentary if you can….it is very eye-opening.

        The scary thing is how many people have no idea how to conduct business without a computer.  Have you ever been told by a store clerk that they can’t ring up your purchase because their computer is down?  They truly have no idea how to write down the amount, add tax, take your cash, and give you change.  Bookkeeping (on paper) might be a very valuable skill in the coming collapse.

      26. Our family is taking the necessary steps to ensure that we will have enough food and so should you. Stop going to the movies and wasting money on expensive stuff you DON’T NEED. Do your kids really need a new cell phone this year? Do you need all those premium channels on TV? Make some cuts and spend the money on food storage, before prices go up. We get everything from – the food costs less than other companies and it tastes great. Don’t know what you need? They even have a food planner to help you get started. Don’t wait another day!

      27. I really enjoy the comments on this site.  I, too, am prepping as best I can.  But sometimes I think, “What For?”.   Our great country is collapsing from within, and even if we can survive for some period of time, do I really want to be around to see what we did to America?

      28. It is not a question of “do you really want to be around…”  You will be around the question is do you want to be around starving or fed.  Unless you are suicidal you will be around to watch whatever unfolds, prep so that you aren’t begging or stealing from others.

      29. Why do people still believe this FALSE information about US power grids and infrastructures??? They are NOT connected to the Internet, therefore they can NOT be hacked remotely! More people need to understand that these “ideas” are put out to prepare citizens for a “false flag” attack in order to shut down the Internet.

      30. A generator tells everyone for a long distance that someone has fuel (and probably other goodies). I would not want to be sitting in my normally lighted home watching DVDs while my whole county is dark.

        A wood stove would be swell, but smoke would be a problem, even though there would be many wood fires going in wintertime. Even in the burbs fuel would be available, what with all the empty houses around. A water heater tank could be used for a wood stove, but it would be a lot of work to make the conversion by hand. Propane may only be a short term energy source.

        The internet is not the only entry point for malware. PLCs are everywhere (often networked) and usually can be  accessed via a laptop which has been connected to the internet at some time and compromised without the user’s knowledge. Things like transformers would not have to be attacked directly. The control systems at generating stations undoubtedly incorporate computers. Such systems would probably be attacked in many ways at once because the longer any malware is in the system the greater the chance of it being discovered. A lot of havoc could be wreaked by some geek who did not even realize what a disaster they could cause.

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