Thursday, January 14, 2016

Biggest threat to power grid, hackers? Nope, this guy

An eastern gray squirrel, perhaps plotting an attack on your local power plant.
(AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Andrea Peterson reports for The Washington Post:

Researchers say that hackers caused a December power outage in Ukraine -- an attack that came after years of warnings about the digital security of the power grid.  But some say that we should be more worried about a different, furrier threat.
They can strike at almost any moment -- gnawing through the insulation guarding power lines or burrowing into substations in risky missions that can leave thousands without power at a time. The bushy-tailed rodent has even sparked economic mayhem: Back in 1987, a rogue squirrel took out the power to a NASDAQ computer center for nearly an hour and half, stopping an estimated 20 million shares from being traded, according to the New York Times.
The critters are such a big problem that the American Public Power Association even tracks the blackouts they cause with its own "Squirrel Index."
But among some cybersecurity researchers, this furry menace has become a meme that highlights what they see as the alarmist tone of policy discussions around cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.

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