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In the Dark: Preparing for Electrical Grid Hackers

Cybersecurity hacks, are on the rise. So, what are we doing to prepare? The electrical grid is what delivers electricity from power plants, to customers. A critical part of America’s infrastructure.

Posted: Nov 15, 2017 6:45 PM
Updated: Nov 15, 2017 7:11 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Stuck in the dark. That’s what would happen if hackers got ahold of our electrical grid. A very difficult task, but it's not impossible.

Cybersecurity hacks, are on the rise. So, what are we doing to prepare?  

It’s time to wake up to a scary reality. "It would be the most costly attack that the U.S. has ever had,” said William Mackey, a Cybersecurity Expert.

A cyber-security sabotage. Mackey added, "It's a technological battlefield. It's a computer and it's a virtual battlefield."

Picture this, no phones, no computers, no power. The electrical grid, paralyzed. "Power is critically for us to go about doing our daily routines,” said Mackey.

The electrical grid is what delivers electricity from power plants, to customers. A critical part of America’s infrastructure. Mackey is researching this alarming topic.

"It is very much real. It is definitely a concern," William Mackey is researching this alarming topic. "A successful hack that would actually shut down power grids - would require an enormous amount of effort, money and man hours."

But, there are preparations underway now to be pro-active, instead of re-active. Mackey told us, “The head of the NSA (National Security Agency), Mike Rogers, recently testified to Congress that they expect, they anticipate that a major devastating cyber-attack will happen in the United States before 2025."

There are two possible levels for grid hackers.

The first Mackey says, "Is more of a superficial level, where it's just people getting more benign information like e-mails."

And second is operation control. Actually being able to gain access to flip switches and change how things work. Mackey suggests to stop the people behind the screen, companies should start with employees.

Lew Middleton gave us a tour of Duke Energy's Regional Headquarters in Plainfield, Indiana. Duke Energy is one the largest electrical providers in the United States. Several people in the Wabash Valley use their services.

When touring the facility, many areas we found, were labeled as restricted. That's where security teams keep an eye out, for hackers.

"It's just about as important to have electrical service, as it is to have oxygen to breathe,” Middleton added, “We have a team of cyber security professionals that are very well trained. They monitor and detect any threats that may come our way -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

We weren’t allowed inside the security center, but we were allowed to use video off of their YouTube page, showing how teams work quickly to isolate any possible threats. "You have to work hard to stay ahead of the game,” said Middleton, “Because the people who are trying to take down our systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated."

Monitoring the grid at all times and maintaining security. "So we keep the power running to our customers,” added Middleton.

To protect your family every day from the unknown.

According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, nationwide 1.8 million information security jobs need to be filled in the next 5 years.

Click here to visit Duke Energy's website to view what they're doing now, to protect your information.

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