Power Grid Vulnerability Imperils National Security
ENERGY TIMES: Of all the topics and you could tackle as a senior journalist, why did you pick the cyberthreat to the electric power grid?
KOPPEL: First of all, because the number of senior administration people who were issuing warnings about it was significant – including the president, his former defense secretary and his former secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. They were all warning about the danger of the cyber-attack on the power grid. What really caught my attention is that no one was really focusing on this – including my colleagues in the media. There just wasn’t a whole lot of coverage. If indeed the danger of this is great as the senior leaders were saying, the question that really caught my interest is I wonder what the government is doing about it. Is it possible to defend against this kind of an attack? If the answer is no, and the attack is likely to happen, what preparations are being made to protect the American public against the consequences of something that, after all, could involve tens of millions of people over a very extended period of time?
ENERGY TIMES: You quote some officials as saying they believe an attack of this nature is probable. Do you agree?
KOPPEL: It’s really not up to me to agree or disagree. You’re a reporter also. What we do is we go to the best sources we can find, and we ask our questions, and then on the basis of the answers that we get, and on the basis of the sort of overlapping confirmation that there is between and among experts, we draw our own conclusions. I conducted about 60 interviews on the subject, and talking to the best experts I could find within the industry, within the intelligence community, the military and current and former leaders. The conclusion that I came to was that while there is not unanimity, the preponderance of expertise points in the direction of something like this not only being possible, but likely.
ENERGY TIMES: Did you have any in depth talks with senior utility executives?
KOPPEL: I did speak to a very senior electric company executive but I promised him that I would maintain his anonymity. People in the industry can probably figure out that it’s only possibly one of a handful of people. He is one of the people who participates in the White House conference that takes place three times a year on precisely this subject.