Scientists Warn of Worst Case Scenario: “Solar Flares… Will Short Circuit Satellites, Power Grids, Ground Communication Equipment”

grid-down-city

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder recently completed analyzing data from a Coronal Mass Ejection that took place in the summer of 2012. The CME, which was reportedly the most powerful electrical discharge ever recorded from the sun, narrowly missed earth. It was not “earth directed,” meaning the electro-magnetic mass was ejected by the sun when it was facing away from our planet. However, had it occurred just a week prior, the highly charged particles would have struck earth and, according to CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, would have led to nothing short of a technological disaster across the globe.

The CME itself was massive… and its speed was unprecedented, clocking in at 7 million miles per hour.

While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours.

“The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker.

While early warning systems are capable of detecting CME’s and solar flares ahead of time, this particular event happened so quickly that it is unclear if monitoring groups at NASA’s Solar Shield Project would have been able to send alerts to emergency services teams in time.

Had it struck earth, says Baker, it would have caused damage so significant that modern electrical systems would have been fried.

Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews.

We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario

We argue that this extreme event should be immediately employed by the space weather community to model severe space weather effects on technological systems such as the electrical power grid.

I liken it to war games — since we have the information about the event, let’s play it through our various models and see what happens.

If we do this, we would be a significant step closer to providing policymakers with real-world, concrete kinds of information that can be used to explore what would happen to various technologies on Earth and in orbit rather than waiting to be clobbered by a direct hit.

Source: Colorado.edu via Activist Post

Most policy makers have not taken the threat of an earth-directed solar flare seriously, even though a senior member of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee recently warned that there is a 100% Chance of a Severe Geo-Magnetic Event Capable of Crippling Our Electric Grid.

If such an event were to happen Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who has advised people to develop individual preparedness plans based on the threat of massive solar flares or electro-magnetic pulse detonations, says that it would take upwards of 18 months to bring the grid back online because of a decaying national infrastructure.

We could have events in the future where the power grid will go down and it’s not, in any reasonable time, coming back up. For instance, if when the power grid went down some of our large transformers were destroyed, damaged beyond use, we don’t make any of those in this country. They’re made overseas and you order one and 18 months to two years later they will deliver it. Our power grid is very vulnerable. It’s very much on edge. Our military knows that.

There are a number of events that could create a situation in the cities where civil unrest would be a very high probability. And, I think that those who can, and those who understand, need to take advantage of the opportunity when these winds of strife are not blowing to move their families out of the city.

If a solar kill shot were to occur and short out the electrical power grid, it has been estimated that some nine out of ten Americans would be dead within one year as transportation systems broke down, food delivery ceased, commerce systems no longer functioned, communications equipment became inoperable and utilities, such as water treatment plants, were incapable of delivery services.

The ramifications would be serious and almost immediate according to a 132-page NASA funded report on Understanding the Economic and Societal Impacts of Severe Space Weather:

To estimate the scale of such a failure, report co-author John Kappenmann of the Metatech Corporation looked at the great geomagnetic storm of May 1921, which produced ground currents as much as ten times stronger than the 1989 Quebec storm, and modeled its effect on the modern power grid.

He found more than 350 transformers at risk of permanent damage and 130 million people without power.

The loss of electricity would ripple across the social infrastructure with “water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, fuel re-supply and so on.”

If you’ve ever wondered what a massive electrical surge from an electro-magnetic pulse weaponsolar flare or cyber attack might look like, then take a look at this footage shot in Montreal.

Imagine a powerful X-class solar flare striking earth and sending a surge like the one above across the entire U.S. power grid.

Are you prepared for such an event?

Related reading:

When the Grid Goes Down, You Better Be Ready (Ready Nutrition)

Getting Started: Prepping for a Two Week Power Out (The Organic Prepper)


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Report: Massive Vulnerability Detected In National Power Grids: “There Is No Way to Stop This”

grid-vulnerable

If you think that our multi-billion dollar electrical power grids are secure and capable of withstanding a coordinated attack, think again.

According to one group of engineers, the grid is so vulnerable that it wouldn’t even require a skilled hacker to compromise. In fact, when Adam Crain and Chris Sistrunk decided to test some new software they were developing they identified a vulnerability so serious that it could literally blind operational controllers to such an extent that they would be locked out of monitoring systems and unable to maintain grid integrity.

The consequences, according to the engineers who note they are in no way security specialists, could be a total downing of the national power grid with nodes across the nation being taken over all at once. Moreover, the same systems used to maintain the U.S. power grid are also being used in other industries, like water treatment facilities.

You’d think that such a vulnerability would be a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, considering they are spending millions of dollars and promoting their coming Grid Ex exercise in November.

But you’d be wrong. The kicker is that when Crain and Sistrunk advised the DHS Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, they got what essentially amounts to no response. It took Homeland Security a full four months before they even acknowledged the problem.

The two engineers who discovered the vulnerability say little is being done.

Adam Crain and Chris Sistrunk do not specialize in security. The engineers say they hardly qualify as security researchers. But seven months ago, Mr. Crain wrote software to look for defects in an open-source software program.

The program targeted a very specific communications protocol called DNP3, which is predominantly used by electric and water companies, and plays a crucial role in so-called S.C.A.D.A. (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems. Utility companies use S.C.A.D.A. systems to monitor far-flung power stations from a control center, in part because it allows them to remotely diagnose problems rather than wait for a technician to physically drive out to a station and fix it.

Mr. Crain ran his security test on his open-source DNP3 program and didn’t find anything wrong. Frustrated, he tested a third-party vendor’s program to make sure his software was working. The first program he targeted belonged to Triangle MicroWorks, a Raleigh, North Carolina based company that sells source code to large vendors of S.C.A.D.A. systems.

It broke instantly.

“When Adam told me he broke Triangle, I worried everything else was broken,” said Mr. Sistrunk.

Over the course of one week last April, the two tested Mr. Crain’s software across 16 vendors’ systems. They did not find a single system they couldn’t break.

By the end of the week, the two had compiled a 20-page report replete with vulnerabilities in 16 different system vendors for the Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, I.C.S.-C.E.R.T., which notifies vendors of vulnerabilities and issues public advisories.

And then, they waited. It would take I.C.S.-C.E.R.T. another four months to issue a public advisory for Triangle MicroWorks’ system.

D.H.S. did not return a request for comment.

Mr. Crain found that he could actually infiltrate a power station’s control center from afar. An attacker could use that capability to insert malware to take over the system, and like Stuxnet, the computer worm that took out 20 percent of Iran’s centrifuges, inflict actual physical harm.

“This is low-hanging fruit,” said Mr. Crain. “It doesn’t require some kind of hacker mastermind to understand the protocol and do this.”

What makes the vulnerabilities particularly troubling, experts say, is that traditional firewalls are ill-equipped to stop them. “When the master crashes it can no longer monitor or control any and all of the substations,” said Dale Peterson, a former N.S.A. employee who founded Digital Bond, a security firm that focuses on infrastructure.

“There is no way to stop this with a firewall and other perimeter security device today.”

The New York Times

When outgoing DHS head Janet Napolitano suggested that a cyber attack on the nation’s power grid is imminent, she meant it.

They know that these systems are vulnerable, and the steps needed to protect the grid from cyber attacks and other potential hazards like a Super EMP or a severe geo-magnetic event would cost in the multiple billions of dollars to fix.

The fact of the matter is that DHS and the vendors who produce these software control systems are dragging their feet, leaving the entire country vulnerable.

Crain and Sistrunk are not hackers or security experts. They are software engineers and they were able to compromise our entire national power grid and water utility systems from remote locations.

What do you think China, Russia, and rogue hackers are capable of doing?

If you don’t think they’ve mapped our entire grid and its vulnerabilities you are kidding yourself.

This is deadly serious.

And when we say deadly, we mean it, because according to a report from the Center for Security Policy presented to Congress in 2010, if our power grid were to be taken offline for an extended period of time, 9 out of 10 Americans would be dead within a year.

There would be no way to transport food because gas stations pumps would be inoperable. And even if they did work, the commerce systems which makes the exchange of goods possible would be offline. Couple that with water utilities not functioning due to lack of electricity, and we’re talking about a worst-case scenario so bad that this country may never recover.

Former Congressman Roscoe Bartlet has urged those who can to move out of major cities for this reason.

You have been warned: you need to be ready for total grid failure.

The threat is real.


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You