Presidential Candidates Must Address Grid Security
The Unprecedented, Looming Danger of a Cyberattack
ENERGY TIMES: What do you think the response of your book has been, and what would you like it to be?
KOPPEL: Well I’d like it to become the object of a national conversation. We are, after all, just at the beginning. It seems like we’ve been engaged in the process for a long time already, but it’s only the beginning. The presidential campaign year – we’re almost a year away from the election. I certainly think this is an issue that deserves the attention of presidential candidates, and I’m hoping that at some point or another it will be on their agenda. It needs to be. It’s not something that can easily be handled after the fact. Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security, put it very well when he said we tend to be a reactive society. We are not very good at pre-emptive action.
ENERGY TIMES: According to your analysis both China and Russia having the capability of attacking the grid but they are unlikely to use it given the interlocking interests they have with us. You worry more about North Korea and ISIS. Isn’t it likely that if there’s ever a major global conflict it’ll be unlike anything we’ve ever recognized before?
KOPPEL: Yes. But I’m not talking about a major global conflict. What I’m talking about is the internet in addition to its many virtues is a weapon of mass destruction. This is unlike any weapon system that has ever existed before. In the past, weapons of mass destruction have only been available to and usable by governments. A group like ISIS doesn’t have an air force and it doesn’t have a navy. It doesn’t have access to missiles. It is capable only of terrorism. But as we’ve seen, even the sort of retail terrorism in which they are engaging can be enough to absorb the attention of a nation like France or a nation like the United States. Imagine for a moment the capacity to inflict enormous damage on the United States from outside our borders by a single person using a laptop computer. It can be very difficult to track down in short order, the source of a cyber-attack. This is something that we have never experienced before. We are totally unfamiliar with it.