Experts say more needs to be done to protect electrical grids after attack

Josh Chapin Image
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Experts say more needs to be done to protect electrical grids
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More needs to be done to protect the power grid not just in Moore County but across the country, says one expert who tracks attacks on electrical grids.

MOORE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Experts say more needs to be done to protect the power grid not just in Moore County but across the country.

"The cost of not protecting the grid from a physical attack is in the 100s of thousands or millions of deaths," said Michael Mabee, an independent researcher and author of the website "Grid Security Now."

He's also a retired Command Sergeant Major for the US Army.

He started charting the number of physical attacks on power stations back in 2010.

"Since then, we've had 919 physical attacks against the grid," Mabee said, who lived through the New York City blackout of 2003. "This year alone, there have been 107 just through August."

RELATED: Domestic terrorism attacks targeting electric companies rare but not unprecedented

Mabee is concerned about what happened in Moore County.

"If we want to secure electric grids, something has to be done," said Mabee, who now lives in Texas and experienced the winter storm last year that knocked out power to more than 4.5 million.

He said he believes utility companies are underreporting the number of actual attacks to the Department of Energy. He thinks Congress should mandate every company in the industry to report once a year to show the reasonable steps it has taken to protect itself from known hazards.

"We have some equipment in there that's 100 years old, we've got equipment that we can only get from overseas which is another cyber security supply chain issue but the bottom line is to fix this is relatively simple," he said.

Dr. Anurag Srivastava is a professor of electrical engineering at West Virginia University. His research areas include exactly this.

"Our grid is not designed to handle these kinds of things which are going to damage our assets," said Srivastava.

His four-step plan includes ensuring the punishment for this crime is steep. He also suggests putting sensors and data monitoring on the substations to watch what's happening in real-time.

He also suggests identifying the most critical stations, reinforcing them, and knowing future attacks can happen again.

"What can be to do at least keep power on to critical facilities?" he wonders. "Protecting it is going to cost a lot."

The State Utilities Commission said the incident is still under investigation and the commission hasn't made any decision on the next steps.

Duke Energy is presenting to the commission next Monday.