Attacks on U.S. power grid surges to new peak

Both physical and cyber attacks on the U.S. power grid increased in 2022.
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 5:56 PM CST
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Attacks on the U.S. power grid increased in 2022, and local electric utility companies are preparing their security systems for any threats.

According to reporting by Politico, there have been 101 physical and cyber attacks on equipment that delivers electricity nationwide just through August of 2022, which is the highest number of attacks since 2012. In 2021, 97 attacks were recorded throughout the entire year.

This year’s data does not include a recent shooting on two substations in North Carolina, which left 45,000 people without power, or a physical attack on four substations in Washington, which left 14,000 people without power on Christmas Day.

Northern Electric Communications Director Ben Dunsmoor said these attacks have caught electric utility companies’ attention.

“It’s not just weather anymore. There’s also that threat of those cyber attacks and physical attacks, and we do know that there are those attacks happening across the country and across the world. We are monitoring those and we do have different things in place to try and prevent some of those here in South Dakota,” said Dunsmoor.

In regards to physical attacks, Dunsmoor said Northern Electric has monitoring systems and backup plans in place.

”A lot of our systems are monitored on a regular basis to ensure that if there’s anything done, we can catch whoever would do that, but also to catch that immediately so that there are limited power interruptions. We also have a lot of redundancy on the grid so that if there is an interruption or some damage is caused, that we can reroute power and get power back up as quickly as possible,” said Dunsmoor.

On top of monitoring systems for physical attacks, Northern Electric also gives their employees extensive training to prevent cyber attacks.

”We do a lot of training, a lot of regular training throughout the year with our employees to make sure that they’re our human firewall to prevent some of these attacks here at home,” said Dunsmoor.

NorthWestern Energy also invests into extensive security. The following statement was given to Dakota News Now by NorthWestern Energy Public Relations Specialist Jo Dee Black:

“The safety of our customers and our employees is our priority, which includes our investments in physical and cyber security. We work with our peer energy providers to continuously monitor and prepare for threats to the grid and other infrastructure.”

Dunsmoor said the attacks on power have significant consequences.

“The consequences of a cyber attack are huge. Not only could it impact something as far as the power grid or power supply, but also, we’ve got a lot of member data with our billing and those type of things. We take it very seriously and try to protect the cooperative and our members the best way we can,” said Dunsmoor.