Will Our Nation’s Power Grid Be the Next Big “Hack”?

It seems like we hear so much about the clever “life hacks” that go viral online that we tend to forget how serious hacking can actually be — especially when it comes in the form of a cyberattack. This type of problem definitely on the minds of our national leaders, though. President Obama recently released a statement of warning against the United States’ lack of spending on the defense of its power grids against cyberattacks. In fact, Obama has taken the potential threat so seriously that he went as far as to declare November as “Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month.” So what exactly does it mean? Read on to learn more.


The Potential Problem With Power Grid Hacking


How big of a threat does the U.S. power grid face? According to the White House, various presidential candidates, lawmakers, and security experts — pretty big. These folks have been citing the lack of funding in power grids, energy systems, and other aspects of our infrastructure as being a “looming danger” to the nation. Michael Rogers of the National Security Agency has named China and “one or two” additional countries as having the capability to digitally assault American networks, thus creating cyberattacks with the potential for catastrophic and widespread blackouts that would send people back to the dark ages — literally and figuratively.


But while the potential is certainly there, some Americans find themselves wondering how likely it is that our grids would come under attack. Consider the fact that hackers have already begun to attack the Department of Energy. This agency, which is in charge of overseeing the country’s power grid, has consistently found itself under a barrage of cyberattacks over the course of the past several years. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, there have been more than 150 documented cases of such occurrences.


The Proposed Solution


With such a great risk being placed on our nation’s infrastructure, the government has made a push towards promoting better funding for these invaluable areas. According to Obama, attention must be placed here not only to reduce any threat to our national security, but also to improve economic growth and open more doors of opportunity for Americans. Beyond just talking about the issues, though, what is actually being done about them?


For starters, the Department of Homeland Security has assembled a committee whose specific purpose is to boost digital defense for utilities. Another task of the committee will be to assess the agency’s “lifeline sectors” and determine how well they are prepared to meet any threats and have the ability to recover from “significant cyber events.” You’ll notice, too, that the 2016 campaign trail is also becoming a forum for discussing these issues. Secretary Hilary Clinton has already called for updates to the power grid as a means of improving cybersecurity. She has since revealed a statement upon a proposed policy that would introduce sweeping changes to the energy infrastructure with an emphasis on cybersecurity. The plan would initiate a brand new presidential team which would exist for the purpose of coordinating threat assessments and response efforts between the power sector and our federal agencies. Because this is such a hot topic, we’re sure to see other candidates putting a focus on this area over the course of the next year.


Of course, “Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month” won’t immediately solve all of our problems, but it does shed light on the potential risks for cyberattacks on the nation’s power grids and energy infrastructure. Awareness of these issues is what makes it possible to create and pass legislature that works to protect us against hackers in the future.


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