The administration has sent its clearest signal yet that the White House takes seriously mounting cyber threats against American infrastructure, with the issuance of an executive order last week from President Donald J. Trump directing specific federal agencies to prepare for attacks on the nation’s power grids.
As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Trump’s order tasks the Department of Energy, Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence and state and local governments to analyze the readiness of the U.S. to deal with any unforeseen disabling of the electric grid. The order also instructs the aforementioned federal agencies to “assess preparations for a prolonged power outage resulting from cyber attacks designed to disrupt the power grid,” the WFB reported.
In addition to analyzing how well federal, state and local governments are prepared to handle a massive grid-down scenario, Trump’s order directs the agencies to find any gaps in the country’s ability to rapidly repair any disrupted service.
Trump’s order came just two days after the head of the U.S. Cyber Command, Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, who also heads up the National Security Agency, told a congressional hearing that critical infrastructure throughout the United States is vulnerable to cyber attack. He also noted that a number of countries including Iran have been linked to remote intrusions and temporary disruptions of service into several critical U.S. infrastructures including financial networks, private servers and the electric grid.
“We assess that several countries, including Iran, have conducted disruptions or remote intrusions into critical infrastructure systems in the United States,” Rogers said in a prepared statement.
Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there were two potential scenarios that concerned him most: Massive hack and loss of the power grid and cyber intrusions intended to manipulate data within information systems.
As for penetrating key infrastructure, Rogers told the Senate committee that U.S. intelligence detected Iran attempting to hack into a dam in upstate New York in 2013 and disrupt its function. Also, Russia has malware called BlackEnergy designed for industrial control to infiltrate and attack Ukraine’s power grid.
“Infiltrations in U.S. critical infrastructure, when viewed in the light of incidents like these, can look like preparations for future attacks that could be intended to harm Americans, or at least to deter the United States and other countries from protecting and defending our vital interests,” he told the panel.
Trump’s order instructs the specified agencies to report to the White House their findings no later than August 9.
The order is part of Trump’s objective to shore up cyber security both for the government and for the private sector. Rogers told the Senate panel that the cyber threats to our vital systems are advancing rapidly. Besides Russia and Iran, China, North Korea and other potential enemies all have advanced cyber capabilities.
“The pace of international conflict and cyberspace threats has intensified over the past few years,” he said. “We face a growing variety of advanced threats from actors who are operating with ever more sophistication and precision.” (RELATED: Grid Down In San Fran, NYC And LA – What Happens When ALL Major Cities Lose Power?)
An earlier assessment by the Congressional EMP Commission, authored by chairman Dr. Vincent Pry and former CIA Director James Woolsey, found that a major long-term loss of the power grid by an electromagnetic pulse event (sun storm or nuclear attack) would kill nine of 10 Americans within a year if no power were restored.
Cyber attacks can cause similar kinds of damage, experts note.
The White House is aware that most of the critical U.S. infrastructure does not belong to the government — that is, it is privately owned. That complicates any effort to coordinate defenses and protect those systems from attack.
“The executive order not only requires [Trump’s] departments and agencies to help those critical infrastructure owners and operators, and the most important ones, but to do it in a proactive sense,” Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert told reporters last week. “The message is a tilt toward action.”
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.