360° Coverage : Needed: A debate on the security of the power grid, not on leaks...

2 Updates

Needed: A debate on the security of the power grid, not on leaks about it

Apr 3 2014, 12:52pm CDT | by

Leaks are a part of Washington as old as government secrecy. The recent alleged leak of a Federal Energy Regulation Commission report regarding potential vulnerability of the electrical grid to the...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

24 weeks ago

Needed: A debate on the security of the power grid, not on leaks about it

Apr 3 2014, 12:52pm CDT | by

Leaks are a part of Washington as old as government secrecy. The recent alleged leak of a Federal Energy Regulation Commission report regarding potential vulnerability of the electrical grid to the Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Smith is yet another item in this long history. That a report would be given to a journalist that expressed concern for the safety of the electrical system is troublesome, however, the health and safety of the electrical grid is a fundamentally important economic and national security issue. It should be subject to fairly open and informed public debate as our society’s dependence upon it is great.

The FERC report Smith cited allegedly contained information pointing to the possibility that simultaneous destruction of nine particular electrical transformers could bring down the electrical grid at a national level and require significant time to return to full operations. Such a physical attack has occurred in one location – the April 16, 2013 incident at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalfe energy center and transmission substation – in which snipers, “surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley.”  Those who perpetrated the PG&E attack remain, almost a year later, still at large.

Senators Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee criticized the disclosure of the FERC report, and called for the Department of Energy’s Inspector General to locate the FERC employee responsible for sharing the article with the Journal. This follows acting FERC Chairman Cheryl LaFleur’s comments on the Journal’s decision to run the article.  She stated that,

[P]ublication by The Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the grid undermines the careful work done by professionals who dedicate their careers to providing the American people with a reliable and secure grid. The Wall Street Journal has appropriately declined to identify by name particularly critical substations throughout the country. Nonetheless, the publication of other sensitive information is highly irresponsible. While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs.

Beyond the line between transparency and irresponsibility raised by Ms. LaFleur, there are several questions to consider. First among them is whether the story on the FERC report revealed anything truly dangerous. Additionally, there is a matter of how much the general public should be concerned about a catastrophic kinetic attack against the grid.

On the matter of the danger to the story, the article stated in what parts of the country the points of failure would be, but added no detail. Beyond sensitive information spillage, when we consider who might attack many pieces of grid simultaneously, the possibilities are probably quite low. Thus, a major physical attack on the grid would be a rare event – not impossible, but unlikely and hard to pull off. A cyber attack is also a possibility, but we are fortunate that process control computing is likely fairly heterogeneous. Nonetheless, policy and assurances are needed for cyber too, as evinced by the GridEx cyber exercise.

As to what policy can do, we should consider strategies for resiliency. My Rice colleague Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio has considered just how “lifeline” systems function and the probability for cascading failures within them. One of his observations is that, “increasing local redundancy mitigates the effects of interdependence on systemic performance, but such intervention is incapable of eliminating interdependent effects completely.” Whether we worry about earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, or terrorists, redundancy seems to be an issue that should be taken up in policy. Of course, redundancy also comes at a cost.

Finally, Senators Landrieu and Murkowski’s outrage at the Journal’s reporting should be placed in perspective. While they can be upset about the FERC report’s finding its way to a reporter (and the report was not a classified document), they should also consider the state of the grid and what can be done to improve it. This week I participated in a conference in which NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and former NSA inspector general Joel Brenner had words regarding transparency in the United States’ signals intelligence agency. While the FERC leak (if it rises to worthiness of the term) is insignificant in comparison with the Drake, Snowden, and Manning leaks, the U.S. government must address the issue of how it can harness dissent into constructive criticism and improvement of policy, process, and oversight.

This post was drafted by Chris Bronk, Fellow in Information Technology Policy and Director of the Program on Energy and Cybersecurity in the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

 
Update
2

3 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

3 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

FIFA will not ban travel to Ebola-hit countries
Madrid, Sep 24 (IANS/EFE) The medical committee of world soccer's governing body, FIFA, decided Tuesday not to impose a ban on travelling to countries hit with the deadly Ebola outbreak.
 
 
UN chief to convene high-level meeting on Ebola
United Nations, Sep 24 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene a meeting of world leaders during the General Assembly's annual high-level session in response to the deadly Ebola virus outbreak, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.
 
 
Thousands of South Sudanese kids face starvation: Unicef
United Nations, Sep 23 (IANS) Thousands of children, up to five years age, are at a risk of dying from malnutrition in South Sudan, the Unicef has warned.
 
 
'Ebola could hit up to 1.4 mn West Africans'
Washington, Sep 23 (IANS) The number of Ebola cases in West Africa could reach as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million by Jan 20 in the worst-case scenario, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) warned in a report Tuesday.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Kelly Brook to spend 300,000 pounds on yacht?
London, Sep 24 (IANS) Actress-model Kelly Brook, who is getting married to David McIntosh, is reportedly planning to shell out 300,000 pounds per week on a yacht for honeymoon in Greece. Brook is considering hiring a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
'Nobody gets a pass' in tackling climate change: Obama
Washington, Sep 24 (IANS/EFE) US President Barack Obama Tuesday announced measures to help other countries fight climate change, saying that it is necessary to adopt an ambitious worldwide accord in which all countries...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes are still adjusting to baby
Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes' newborn daughter is keeping them up all night. The couple, who welcomed their first child into the world earlier this month, are ''exhausted'' but ''infatuated'' with their new arrival. A...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sarah Hyland secures restraining order against ex-boyfriend
Sarah Hyland has secured a temporary restraining order against ex-boyfriend Matthew Prokop. The 'Modern Family' star, who recently ended her five-year romance with the actor, was granted a protection order against him,...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
John Stamos is heartbroken after his mother's death
John Stamos is grieving the death of his mother. The heartbroken actor, 51, paid tribute to Loretta Phillips Stamos on Instagram on Tuesday (09.23.14) after she passed away at her home at the age of 75 on Monday (09.22....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
FIFA will not ban travel to Ebola-hit countries
Madrid, Sep 24 (IANS/EFE) The medical committee of world soccer's governing body, FIFA, decided Tuesday not to impose a ban on travelling to countries hit with the deadly Ebola outbreak. However, it recommended the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
France hopes Iran n-talks yields final agreement
Paris, Sep 24 (IANS) French President Francois Hollande Tuesday expressed hope that Western leaders' negotiations with Iran over its nuclear plan will lead to a lasting compromise to lift sanctions against Tehran. At...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Simpson feels 'sexier' as wife and mom
Los Angeles, Sep 24 (IANS) Singer Jessica Simpson has two children with husband Eric Johnson and she says she feels sensuous post-marriage. The couple got married in July this year and is on cloud nine. "Being married...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Beyonce shares intimate footage at concert
Los Angeles, Sep 24 (IANS) Singer Beyonce Knowles has revealed naked baby bump photograph while pregnant with daughter Blue Ivy in an intimate clip during her On The Run tour. The 33-year-old is standing completely...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
WFP assistance reaches one mn displaced Iraqis
Geneva, Sep 24 (IANS) The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Tuesday said it provided food assistance to more than one million civilians across Iraq who were displaced since conflict erupted in mid-June, despite...
Read more on Politics Balla