NY Congresswoman: 100 Percent Chance of Cyber Attack against Power Grid

Rep Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.); Photo: clarke.house.gov, fsu.edu, reversenergy.com

A New York congresswoman says the possibility of cyber attack against the nation’s power grid is 100 percent, and that such an attack would likely do untold harm.

Speaking before the SC World Congress Data Security Conference, Rep. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science, and Technology  Subcommittee, said the United States faces chilling odds of an electrical-grid attack.

“Our networks are already being penetrated as we stand here,” Clarke said, according to a report on InfoSecurity.com. “We are already under attack. We must stop asking ourselves ‘could this happen to us’ and move to a default posture that acknowledges this fact and instead asks ‘what can we do to protect ourselves’?”

The power grid, which Clarke said distinguishes the United States as “an advanced, modern civil society,” is vulnerable, not only from possibly adversarial nations, such as Iran and North Korea, but also terrorist organizations.

The northeast blackout of 2003, which kept the lights off for millions in the United States and Canada, would only be the tip of the iceberg if the electrical grid was attacked, Clarke said.

“While our citizens remained relatively calm throughout [that] ordeal,” she said, “it still caused 11 deaths and roughly $6 billion in damages. Imagine what those damages would be for a nationwide blackout lasting a few weeks.”

A power outage of weeks or months would likely destroy the country, irreparably, she said.

But Clarke’s message wasn’t all doom and gloom. Congress has already begun to take steps, including having hearings about electrical-grid vulnerabilities, she said. Efforts to switch the electrical grid to a digital Smart Grid have also put a spotlight on security concerns.

Long-lasting solutions will require a partnership between government and industry, Clarke said, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

“We cannot afford to fail,” she said. “The private sector, the administration, the Congress have all made progress, but we lack the sense of urgency that is necessary. We must move on this forcefully.”

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