Lights out: Most unprepared if electric grid hacked

A lone taxi drives through the darkened canyons of New York’s lower Manhattan neighborhood after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the eastern seaboard, setting off a cascade of flooding, fires, and power outages throughout the metropolitan area and beyond, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. A national cyber attack on the power grid concerns most Americans.

The recent Russia-linked cyber attacks on a major gasoline pipeline and a beef distributor has the nation on edge of a far more devastating assault on the nation’s electric grid.

Facing intelligence community predictions that 90% of the U.S. population would die in a year-long blackout, a new survey shared with Secrets shows that a sizable majority of Americans are now worried they are unprepared for even a short grid shutdown.

What’s more, a huge 86% believe that the grid is vulnerable to an attack, one that looks more likely in the wake of the cyber hacks of Colonial Pipeline Co. and JBS USA.

The Survey Monkey poll, conducted for Protect Our Power, endorsed calls to spend more to save the grid from an attack.

Cyber attacks have recently emerged as a major threat, joining the potential for an electromagnetic pulse attack by Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, which have programs to build those weapons.

“Our poll clearly shows that a substantial majority of the American public are aware of and concerned about the vulnerabilities of our electric system, and they expect Congress to act aggressively in addressing this urgent threat,” said Jim Cunningham, president of Protect Our Power.

Among the findings pulled from the poll:

  • 70% would feel unsafe in the event of a power outage of two weeks or more.
  • 66% believe their quality of life will suffer with an outage lasting more than seven days.
  • 64% say they are unprepared for an extended power outage that will last more than two weeks.
  • 16% believe the federal government is doing all it can to prevent an attack on the grid.

Grid work would likely be part of President Biden’s infrastructure legislation and the poll could help to add support for it. Protect Our Power has also developed a plan for Congress and the White House to follow to speed fixes.

by Paul Bedard