Cybersleuths Reportedly Have Gotten onto U.S. Electric Grid; What Would Your Day Be Like?
If another country actually tried to take down part of the power grid, what would your day be like?
Your day might very well start late -- simply because your alarm clock is electric. You turn on your laptop to go online for information -- but while the laptop has a battery, the wireless router that gets you onto the Web may not.
The phone works, since most telephone networks are not powered by local utilities -- but can you get through to the people you want to reach? The voice signal for more and more calls travels over the Internet, and the Internet was what the cybersleuths used to shut down electric power. You may be able to call long distance but not locally. Or the reverse.
Everywhere you look, you find proof of the old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You take a shower, for instance, by window light. The water is still clean, since the treatment plant near you has backup power, but if your home has electric heat, you gradually may find yourself running low on hot water.
You have a gas stove. That should work, right? Wrong -- it has an electric starter. A generation ago there would have been a pilot light burning all the time.
"This goes directly to the issue of how pervasive electricity is, in ways we never imagined a generation ago," said James Owen of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents power companies in Washington. "We are at the mercy of the very devices we use to make our lives more convenient."
The Outside World
You head outside -- and find traffic a mess. Very few cities or towns have backup power for traffic lights.
Your car works fine, and radio stations, on backup power, are running constant bulletins. But did you fill up your tank last night? The gas stations can't pump anything.
The grocery store is dark, and harried clerks are worried that food will go bad without refrigeration. The cash registers are out too. But if past blackouts are any indication, people are banding together to help each other out. If you can't pay by credit card, the store may take an old-fashioned paper IOU.
Air traffic, said the FAA, would not be in danger: "The whole system is based on redundancies," said the FAA's Paul Takemoto.
Of course, getting to and from airports would be a more frustrating issue, and power in terminal buildings might be limited. It would not be a good day to fly.
Wall Street has backup power, which allows stock prices to tumble in the crisis. When will the power come back on?
"Think of this," said Michael Markulec of Lumeta, an Internet security firm in New Jersey. "You take your valuables, and you put them in a safe deposit box in a bank, where they have all sorts of security systems. We're not protecting our cyberassets the way we protect our physical assets."
Sarah reading by candle light. Photo by Votive
So you're back home in the evening, using flashlights and candles, and you open your laptop again to see if you can get any updates. But the battery is low, and finally the machine shuts down, which means that for the most mundane of reasons, you cannot read the end of this sto... -- ABC News