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Massive Power Outages Like Argentina Could Happen in the US – 4 Important Reads

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Argentina and Uruguay are recovering from a nationwide blackout that cut power to tens of millions of people. including some in Paraguay, Chile and Brazil. The cause of the blackout is under investigation. But something similar could happen in the US – and it has been.

On August 14, 2003, a software glitch caused a power outage, killing 50 million people across nine northeastern US states. and provinces in Canada without electricity The blackout lasted four days. Power outages in some areas followed several days later.

The incident was not caused by an attacker. But many of the recommendations in the final incident report focus on cybersecurity. Over 15 years later, the risk of long-term outages is higher. As American business and society become more and more dependent on electronic devices. And international military forces are preparing for cyber warfare. Academics across the country are studying the problem of protecting grids from cyber attacks and software flaws. Several people wrote about their work for The Conversation:

1. Attacks can be difficult to detect

Although the software bug that amplified a US power outage in 2003 wasn’t the result of a cyberattack, Michael McElfresh, a power grid scholar at Santa Clara University, explains that a clever attacker could disguise the intrusion. setting the thermostat for a short period of time on a very hot day.”

2. Attractive Grid Target

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Manimaran Govindarasu of Iowa State University and Adam Hahn of Washington State University are both grid security scholars. Notice that Grid is an attractive target for hackers. Which can turn off a lot of people: “It happened in Ukraine in 2015 and again in 2016, and it could happen here in the US too.”

3. What to do now?

In another paper, Govindarasu and Hahn describe the degree to which “Russia hacked the computer systems of several U.S. electric utilities and was able to obtain … privileges sufficient to cause power outages.”

They wrote the response as related to the expansion of federal grid safety regulations to “All utility companies – even the smallest,” with “every company that is part of the grid participating in coordinated grid exercises to improve cybersecurity preparedness and share best practices.” and – most importantly – confirmed that the electricity “Make sure the hardware and software used are from trusted sources and have not been altered or altered to allow unauthorized users to access.”

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Those steps will not prevent software bugs. But it can reduce the chance that attackers exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems to turn off the lights.

4. Custom grid restructuring

to prevent all kinds of threats to the grid Including natural and man-made Joshua M. Pearce Professor of Engineering at Michigan Technological University It is recommended to produce energy in several locations across the country instead of a centralized power plant He reported that his research found that connecting those small electricity producers to nearby consumers would make the supply of electricity more reliable, less risky and cheaper. He found that the US Army “All electricity can be generated from distributed renewable energy sources by 2025 using … microgrids.”

At least in this way, minor problems with the power grid are less likely to spread and become big problems for tens of millions of people, like the northeast blackout in 2003. Death in Argentina-Uruguay in 2019

Editor’s Note: This story is a summary of an article from The Conversation’s archives. It was an updated version of the article originally published on August 14, 2018.

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(You are smart and curious about the world. So are the authors and editors of The Conversation. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter)

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