[ISN] Forget hackers: Squirrels are a bigger threat to America’s power grid

http://theweek.com/article/index/255510/forget-hackers-squirrels-are-a-bigger-threat-to-americas-power-grid By Eugene K. Chow The Week January 28, 2014 While American lawmakers and security officials repeatedly warn of a catastrophic cyberattack that will cripple the nation’s power grids, in reality, squirrels and tree branches are proving more troublesome than hackers when it comes to actual power outages. According to numerous reports and headlines: America’s power grid is “too vulnerable to cyberattack;” thousands will die if terrorists attack the grid; cyber attacks could keep America in the dark for nine to 18 months; and electric companies face “daily” cyber attacks, which over a month can build to 10,000. With cyber security so abysmal, incentive so high, and attacks constant, why hasn’t there been a massive hacker-triggered power failure yet? Simply put, because it’s not that easy. To be clear, attacks on the power grid would be disastrous and there are significant gaps that must be addressed — procedures improved, vulnerabilities patched, software updated — but even with these glaring weaknesses, an ordinary hacker wouldn’t be able to take down the electrical grid. Turning America’s lights off remotely is a complex operation that requires not only hacking expertise but an array of intelligence and analysis