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Who's winning the cyber war? The squirrels, of course.

 
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Pepperman



Joined: 10 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:02 am    Post subject: Who's winning the cyber war? The squirrels, of course. Reply with quote

[repost due to thread title cock up]

Here's a fun talk comparing the perceived threat of cyber attacks on the electricity grid with the very real threat from animals (in particular squirrels):

https://arstechnica.co.uk/information-technology/2017/01/whos-winning-the-cyber-war-the-squirrels-of-course/
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adam2
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting link, but I urge not becoming complacent.

The fact that rodents have caused more power outages than cyber attack does not indicate that this will remain so.
Squirrels are a known problem and various ways exist to control the pests and to minimise the damage that they cause.
I see no reason to suspect that squirrel damage will suddenly become a huge danger, it is a natural and well understood hazard of running a grid system just like fire, flood, lightning, theft, and unexpected breakdowns. All these occur regularly and are generally handled without significant long term outages.

A large scale cyber attack is an "unknown unknown " and by definition we have almost no previous experience upon which to plan an effective response.

A sufficiently determined attack could black out large areas for some days, perhaps for longer.
IMHO, the risk of an attack is increasing as more and more critical infrastructure is controlled automatically and/or remotely rather than by engineers on site, or at least a SHORT drive away.
The consequences of any such attack are undoubtedly increasing as society becomes ever more dependant an a continuous and reliable electricity supply.
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woodburner



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From a program on the BBC a couple of weeks ago, a CIA agent claimed the bugs secreted in the Iranian internet system makes Stuxnet look like a back alley operation. The US would be able to shut down much of the infrastructure. If there is any truth in this, then it is reasonable to suppose there are problems lurking for other countries.

In these circumstances pressing a button could be done without needing to use nuclear options.
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Pepperman



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I absolutely support avoiding complacency and I would hope that the generators, TSOs and DNOs are hardening their systems to mitigate any risk.

But I also think it's worth maintaining a sense of perspective when reading some of the more lurid newspaper articles about threats to our infrastructure.

I suspect that it would be *much* easier (and more likely) to cause disruption through physical damage of infrastructure rather than hacking attacks.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that a physical attack may be more probable.

I find it most interesting that the electrical supply industry are undertaking a large programme of greatly upgrading substation batteries.

High voltage substations are equipped with batteries to operate instruments and controls and communications equipment. Most types of large high voltage circuit breaker require a battery to trip or close.

There are often two batteries, one of 48 volts for communications equipment and one of 110 volts for equipment operation.
These batteries have traditionally been sized for between 3 and 6 hours operation.
It was considered that this was ample as large HV substations would be among the least likely places in the nation to suffer a prolonged outage.
Any very rare prolonged shutdown could be mitigated by an engineer driving to the site with a generator.

The upgrade consists of changing the 48 volt batteries to give a minimum of 72 hours standby.
The 110 volt batteries are to be duplicated, with each battery set sized for at least 6 hours operation. If the grid power fails for more than 30 minutes, then one of the 110 volt batteries is to be isolated and kept in reserve.
After about 6 hours the first battery will run down and be automatically disconnected to avoid deep discharge damage.
The second battery is NOT to be then put into use, since both batteries would then be unserviceable after about 12 hours.
The second battery is to remain nearly fully charged until remotely put into use, shortly before needed.
This remote control of the relatively large 110 volt batteries relies on the 48 volt battery remaining serviceable throughout the outage, hence the need for this to be upgraded to at least 72 hours capacity.

(the above relies on my imperfect memory and may contain minor errors, but I believe it to be substantially correct)

The intention is to ensure that after a complete grid shutdown, that a black start can be achieved with automatic or remote control of HV switchgear being available.
The reports implies that manual control would not be viable due to problems in traveling to remote sites.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could there be start up problems after a black out due to consumers leaving large numbers of appliances switched on during the shut off and them all coming on line at once. Would power company employees have to travel the streets with loud hailers telling people to turn off appliances?
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adam2
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kenneal - lagger wrote:
Could there be start up problems after a black out due to consumers leaving large numbers of appliances switched on during the shut off and them all coming on line at once. Would power company employees have to travel the streets with loud hailers telling people to turn off appliances?



It could be a problem, but plans exist to handle it, options include

Radio adverts warning of the dangers of appliances being damaged unless they are unplugged until after power is restored.
Restoration in the early morning when fewer people will be awake and trying appliances to see it is back on yet.
Restoration of only small areas at a time, so that excess demand in that small area is of no wider consequence.
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