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Power Security

$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the power-up-the-manhunt dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Associated Press reports that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has put up a $250,000 reward for 'information leading to an arrest and conviction in a startling attack mounted nearly a year ago on telephone lines and the power grid in Silicon Valley.' Besides cutting power lines, the attackers also cut AT&T fiber-optic phone lines, thereby denying some people access to 911, and fired shots into a PB&E substation, knocking out 17 transformers in Silicon Valley and causing $15 million in damage. As of this post, the perpetrators are still unidentified and continue to elude the FBI. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."
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$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack

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  • by Chacham (981)

    Linky [sfgate.com] linky [go.com].

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:46PM (#46727347)

    . Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack.

    Because nobody will take security seriously until something bad happens? And once that something bad happens there will be plenty of people screaming, "False flag!"

    • We all should ware Kevlar vests to protect us from shootings. Those who got killed and didn't wear a Kevlar vest is their own damn fault.

      You find a flaw, you report it. If they choose not to act and something goes wrong, it is the guys who failed to take actions fault, with the guy who did the crime, you end up the Hero. If you find a flaw and exploit it. It is all your fault, and you are the villain.

      • Security is a design principle not a fashion statement, and good practice in dealing with critical infrastructure.

    • by Ravaldy (2621787)

      It's human nature. We are reactive.

    • We have managed to survive many many years without doing much in the way of protection. Why do you have a belief that the future will be any different from the past?

      • Because the US is urinating in someone's bowl of corn flakes every five minutes.

        Retaliation is inevitable.

        Maybe we should focus on what we can do: end the cronyism in DC and defend our borders. We can afford to do that.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Because nobody will take security seriously until something bad happens?

      Well, no. It's because the document wasn't actually sensitive. Anyone who actually might want to cripple our infrastructure already knows how to do that, because they have access to satellite imagery like everyone else. Also, not being complete fucking idiots, they know how to read the reports that all corporations are required to file which include information on things like new construction projects, including their function and location.

      The truth is that most U.S. cities get their power via just one or t

      • by tresho (1000127)
        "As it turns out, one guy in a pickup truck can cripple a city's ability to function. You don't think that any enemies could muster those kind of resources? Nobody is even trying." You have no idea is anyone is really trying. None of us do. 30 guys with 30 pickup trucks, 30 hunting rifles shooting armor-piercing bullets (available almost anywhere in the USA), could easily take out transformers over a wide area, and cripple a region's ability to function.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You have no idea is anyone is really trying. None of us do.

          That is a typically ignorant thing to say. I wrote "incredibly" but I must be new here if I think that. It's fucking trivial, and it hasn't happened, which is how we know no one is trying.

  • The insecure media are still out there. No redacting that (unless it's on the web, of course; that's even worse [archive.org].
  • by korbulon (2792438) on Friday April 11, 2014 @12:53PM (#46727431)
    I could fund a trip to Mars with that kind of cash!
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday April 11, 2014 @01:04PM (#46727545) Homepage

    Get rid of most of the useless garbage and institute a simpler system:

    1. Declare certain sites strategic risk sites which means their security personnel have heightened authority to detain and shoot suspects similar to sensitive federal facilities.
    2. Encourage said site operators to hire US Army and USMC veterans.
    3. Arm said veterans with selective fire weapons and have them regularly patrol these sites.

    Faster, cheaper and more accountable (private security guards have no qualified immunity).

    • by k6mfw (1182893)
      Actually I prefer more of their profits going into maintenance such as clearing tree branches growing into power lines, replacing sagging lines and decaying poles. Infrastructure! It's what keeps this country going. Wasting on more on security for something that happens very rarely is not good investment into future (but hey like most Americans don't think of such things).
    • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday April 11, 2014 @02:25PM (#46728371) Homepage

      The thing I get is why not just have the government run security for them in the first place?

      That's what I don't get about breeder reactors. People argue that terrorists will get their hands on weapons-grade materials. So instead we plan to bury tons of waste underground if we ever find a place we can store it, at a cost of billions of dollars.

      It would make a lot more sense to just stick the breeder reactors in the middle of army bases. Security isn't THAT hard of a problem since we already guard actual functional nuclear warheads. Surely if the terrorists can't get their hands on those, we can protect some fuel located in the middle of a reactor core under boiling water which is only n% weapons-grade material.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's probably because the "problem of proliferation" is repeated over again as if it were a mantra. The purpose of mantra is to transform the practitioners mind. Proliferation awareness has now transcended most parts of the population to a whole new level of being.

    • 1. Declare certain sites strategic risk sites which means their security personnel have heightened authority to detain and shoot suspects similar to sensitive federal facilities.

      Oh, you mean like the constitution free zones [aclu.org] which are at the border and cover the majority of americans? And that was recently upheld in court? [foxnews.com] I'm sure that will never get abused by the government.

  • These attacks have cost them 10s to 100s of millions. Yet, they are only willing to put up .25M. This shows how poorly ran American companies are today.
    • These attacks have cost them 10s to 100s of millions. Yet, they are only willing to put up .25M. This shows how poorly ran American companies are today.

      The amount of money they offer for a reward only has to be high enough to make it worthwhile for someone who has information to come forward. The amount of money they lost in the attack is really irrelevant. It's not like they'll get that money back if there's a conviction.

    • by Yebyen (59663)

      But you could get $50 and a pizza party... with a chance to win an iPad!

      Spin the wheel! Weeeeeewwwow!

  • I just assumed this had to do with a heist that went un-reported. E.g. they had to take out the power sub-station before cracking another criminal's safe or something.
  • by swb (14022) on Friday April 11, 2014 @02:01PM (#46728175)

    ...wouldn't we have seen it by now?

    Despite the alphabet soup of government agencies, surveillance and Federal laws, America is a pretty easy place to move around and generally maintain a low profile. And many "critical infrastructure" sites really aren't well defended/guarded -- take your pick, a handful of people with nominal skill and training could cause all manner of chaos.

    If the risk of attack was really that great, why haven't we seen it by now?

    I always hesitate to ask this question and post too many specific examples for fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention, but let's just take oil refining as an example. The last time they closed a refinery down for maintenance two states away, the price of gas here shot up quite a bit -- we all hear the stories about inadequate refinery capacity. So what happens if 3 or 4 refineries go offline at the same time in close geographic proximity? Are we talking just a buck a gallon price hike, or are we talking shortages worse than the infamous 1970s gas lines along with all the attendant economic disruption?

    I think if there were people intent on doing real damage, we would have seen it by now. It's a trivial armchair exercise to think of things that make you go "whoa!" And if you think of actual, organized sabotage involving direct state sponsorship and not just theocratic nutjobs the scenarios get even worse because you're now talking training that goes beyond emptying AK-47s in the desert.

    • Or random, say 2-3, car bombs going off in major cities over a couple of days. If placed in the right spot, they could cripple those economies for weeks. Rinse and repeat every couple of months.

      It is really sad all the money that we waste, when most of it won't stop something so miniscule yet effective.
  • considering what it cost in terms of training, logistics, coordination, surveillance, and equipment to do this, the reward is not very much.

    The op itself cost more than that, all those things considered.

    Oh, by the way, no, you're not safe.

    Ever.

    There is no such thing as safety, only living in fear because you want to believe in magic rainbow unicorns.

  • Then give them a medal for exposing, yet again, the criminally shoddy work of a corporation that managed to explode an entire neighborhood.
    • by mi (197448)

      the criminally shoddy work of a corporation that managed to explode an entire neighborhood.

      I don't think, it is fair to accuse a corporation of "shoddy work", when it took an armed group — sophisticated enough to be still at large — to cause the mayhem.

      Or do you want each power-transmission mast to be guarded by soldiers? What about fiber-optic cables, which were cut — should that too be patrolled by the military — the alternative to "corporations" you despise so much? To me the "cu

      • I think he's saying a lazy, greedy, corporation [google.com] is more dangerous than 1000 imaginary terrerists.
        • by mi (197448)

          1000 imaginary terrerists [sic]

          According to TFA, the terror attack included snipers shooting at the electrical equipment. That's not "imaginary", that's as real as it gets.

          A hard-working and benevolent (as opposite to "lazy and greed") corporation would've been just as helpless against a determined group of attackers like that.

  • Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."

    A little late to be scrubbing them now that the information is out there... Better beg

  • by koan (80826)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    I read a discussion online that taking out key substations in the LA asre3a would collapse the grid, it's amazing just how vulnerable we really are.

    Imagine LA with no power for 2 weeks.

  • There is a $250k reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this property damage case. Meanwhile, there is a $10k reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for firing at least 13 shots (and counting) at people along a highway (http://www.kctv5.com/story/25225197/detectives-tracking-75-tips-about-highway-shootings). It's a weird society we live in.
    • by khallow (566160)

      There is a $250k reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this property damage case.

      Well, that's because PG&E cares. Who cares that people get shot at on the highway?

  • $15 million in damage, but who lost power and for how long?

    Well designed systems have redundancies. Go ahead. Shoot out a couple of transformers. We'll just switch sources. The interesting thing will be if this reward gets someone caught. That might be the best economic solution. There's only so much security you can build in to a system. But if it becomes known that you will be caught, and possibly based on evidence provided by your co-conspirators, people will think twice before pulling this crap.

    As to

  • ...when Enron attacked California's power grid.
  • Why not call the Feds and ask them what SEAL team they sent for a "dry run" wouldn't that be faster?

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