Cyber attacks, pandemics and electromagnetic disturbances are the three top "high impact" risks to the U.S. and Canadian power-generation grids, according to a report from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC).
"The specific concern with respect to these threats is the targeting of multiple key nodes in the system, if damaged, destroyed or interrupted in a coordinated fashion, could bring the system outside the protection provided by traditional planning and operating criteria," states the report, "High-Impact, Low-Frequency Risk to the North American Bulk Power System."
he contents of the 118-page report are largely the result of closed-door discussions held since November by NERC (which plays a key role in setting security standards for the U.S. power grid), power providers and U.S. government officials.
The report, which calls for better coordination between U.S. power-grid providers and the government, sets the stage for what may be new guidelines and processes required to combat the major threats identified, according to NERC officials.
The threat of a coordinated cyber attack, which might be combined with a physical attack, is considered the first of the top three "high-impact, low-frequency" threats to North American electricity supply, according to the report.
New Report Identifies Threat Environment and Next Steps for Addressing Key High-Impact, Low-Frequency Risks to the North American Electric Grid • June 2, 2010
The NERC and DOE report identifies a certain class of high-impact, low-frequency risk shown to have the potential to significantly affect the reliability of the North American bulk power system. The report examines three high-impact, low-frequency risks in detail: coordinated cyber, physical, or blended attacks; pandemic illness; and Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD) and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events.