Ted Koppel Writes Entire Book About How Hackers Will Take Down Our Electric Grid... And Never Spoke To Any Experts
from the fudmongering dept
Investigative reporting that reads like fiction - or maybe I just wish it was fiction. In Lights Out, Ted Koppel flashes his journalism chops to introduce us to a frightening scenario, where hackers have tapped into and destroyed the United States power grids, leaving Americans crippled. Koppel outlines the many ways our government and response teams are far from prepared for an un-natural disaster that won't just last days or weeks - but months - and also shows us how a growing number of individuals have taken it upon themselves to prepare. Whether you pick up this book to escape into a good story, or for a potentially potent look into the future, you will not be disappointed.The book also has quotes ("blurbs" as they're called) from lots of famous people -- nearly all of whom are also famous TV news talking heads or DC insiders who have a long history of hyping up "cyber" threats. But what's not on the list? Anyone with any actual knowledge or experience in actual computer security, especially as it pertains to electric grids.
Want to know how useful the book actually is? All you really need to read is the following question and answer from an interview Koppel did with CSO Online:
Did you interview penetration testers who have experience in the electric generation/transmission sector for this book?Also in that interview, Koppel admits that he hasn't heard anything from actual information security professionals (though he admits he may have missed it since he's been on the book tour). But, still, if you're writing an entire book with a premise based entirely on information security practices, you'd think that this would be the kind of thing you'd do before you write the book, rather than after it's been published. Instead, it appears that Koppel just spoke to DC insiders who have a rather long history of totally overhyping "cyberthreats" -- often for their own profits. In another interview, Koppel insists that he didn't want to be spreading rumors -- but doesn't explain why he didn't actually speak to any technical experts.
No, I did not.
“Going in, what I really wanted to do was make sure I wasn’t just spreading nasty rumors,” said Koppel in a phone interview.... “After talking to all these people, I satisfied my own curiosity that this not just a likelihood but almost inevitable.”"All these people"... who apparently did not include any computer security experts. Koppel claims that this isn't a priority because Homeland Security doesn't want to "worry" the American public:
“The public would have to understand it’s a plan that will work but if you don’t have a plan, that can be more worrisome. I just hope it becomes part of the national conversation during the presidential campaign.”What?!? Homeland Security doesn't want to worry the American public? Which Homeland Security is he talking about? The one that manhandles the American public every time they go to an airport? The same one that is constantly fearmongering about "cyber attacks" and "cyber Pearl Harbor"? Is Koppel living in some sort of alternative universe?
Is there a chance that hackers could take down electric grids and it would cause serious problems? Sure. Anything's possible, but somehow we've gotten along without a single incident ever of hackers taking down any part of the electrical grid to date. And most actual information security professionals don't seem to think it is a "likely" scenario as Koppel claims. The whole thing seems to fit into the usual category of cyberFUD from political insiders who are salivating over the ability to make tons and tons of money by peddling fear.
Is it important to protect infrastructure like the electric grids? Yes. Should we be aware of actual threats? Absolutely. But overhyping the actual threat doesn't help anyone and just spreads fear... and that fear is quickly lapped up by people who will use it to profit for themselves.