from the espionage-is-not-war dept
Of course, right before I had read that article, I had been reading an article where the reporter spoke to an energy grid expert, who called such claims "a bunch of hooey." The guy, Seth Blumsack, along with a couple of colleagues, had been hearing all these stories about how "at risk" the electric grid was, so they went looking for the evidence. After looking at the claims and predictions, they realized that those claiming the electrical grid was at risk didn't actually appear to understand the physics of how electric grids actually work.
Blumsack, Hines and Cotilla-Sanchez decided to contrast the performance of a topological model with one based on actual physics - specifically on Ohm's and Kirchoff's Laws governing the flow of electricity in the real world. They tried out both kinds of model on an accurate representation of the North American Eastern Interconnect, the largest and one of the most trouble-prone portions of the US grid, using real-world data from a test case generated in 2005.Seems like, once again, the claims of cyberwar are overblown.
The three engineers say that the physics-driven model was much closer to reality, and that this verifies what physics models show. The results showed that in fact it is major grid components through which a lot of power flows - big generating stations and massive transformers - which are the main points of vulnerability, not the minor installations scattered across the country.
It isn't so much that a minor event on a minor line or installation can't crash the network: such things do happen. But in general there have to be huge numbers of such minor events before one of them happens to hit the miracle weak point and bring everything down. It would be an impossible task for terrorists or other malefactors to know in advance just where and when a minor pinprick could cause massive effects.
"Our system is quite robust to small things failing," says Hines.