A new report exposes the vulnerabilities of the United States' electric grid, citing several examples of break-ins, line cutting, and blackouts in recent history.
The Wall Street Journal's
chilling report explains how mysterious individuals — none of whom have been caught — have broken into substations. In one case, gunmen fired rounds into a substation that powers Silicon Valley. Seventeen transformers were knocked out of service because of the attack.
Security experts who spoke with the Journal said they are worried about what could happen if attackers strike several substations at the same time.
"A substation is not an obvious target for criminals like a bank," security consultant Joseph Weiss said. "Common sense says they want to get into the electric system."
America's electric grid is based around power plants, which ferry electricity away via high-voltage power lines. From there, the electricity feeds into a series of substations as the voltage is decreased before it reaches customers.
Knocking the right combination of substations offline can cause catastrophic damage and result in blackouts, reports the Journal.
The 2011 San Diego blackout, for example, was caused by human error and problems with equipment. Power was ultimately lost in parts of California, Arizona, and Mexico, with 2.7 million customers being left in the dark.
Several break-ins at substations across the U.S. have resulted in everything from stolen copper and other equipment to sliced fiberoptic cables, reports the Journal.
The New York City blackout of 1977,
which was caused by a lightning strike, resulted in a night of chaos, looting, and arson.
A power outage in Washington, D.C. last year showed how vulnerable the system is, one security expert said at the time.
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