Australia

Extremist threat to the power grid

Australia, New South Wales: A man was arrested on 14 March for allegedly planning to attack an electrical substation, according to counterterrorism personnel in the country.

Police allege the man was trying to buy military gear and equipment to make an improvised explosive device, which could have knocked out power to a swath of the region — a reminder that cyber attacks are not the only threat to critical infrastructure.

Attacks on power grid components can result in costly repairs or replacement, ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars. These attacks can also cause electricity outages.

Substations have vulnerable components, often with insufficient physical protection. These components include circuit breakers, transmission and distribution buses, control buildings, and transformers. The highest risk components are the transformers, due to their vulnerability and potential consequences of damage or destruction.

The immediate consequences resulting from the damage or destruction of transformers at multiple locations would be widespread power outages.

Other consequences of attacking transformers and other components include the high cost of repair and replacement, and replacement time.

Compounding these challenges are companies’ culture and the perceived costs of protecting all these vulnerable substations and other elements of the power grid, although a remarkably insignificant amount of money — hundreds of dollars — can prevent millions of dollars in damage and destruction.

Source: HS Today