Hello my friend and welcome back! I have 2 Prepper friends who are constantly arguing which would be worse, an EMP attack or a Cyber-attack, on our electrical infrastructure. To date, I have refused to take sides in the matter, but it does raise a valid question so I decided to research both a little more and do a comparison on the two. In today’s post, I will go over what I have found. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and have a seat while we visit.
OK, so what exactly are we looking at here. An EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) which would wipe out almost everything electrical, as opposed to a Cyber-attack which would take out only the Power Grid. Seems like a no- brainer right? Or so it would seem, as I found out.
A power outage would have some serious impacts that many of us weren’t aware of, it seems. While I have done quite a bit of research on the effects of an EMP on our world, I failed to do the same for the Cyber-Attack as well. Some of what I learned was very surprising and very sobering to say the least.
Let’s walk through a quick list of what we could expect from an EMP attack and then do the same for a Cyber-Attack on our infrastructure. First, pretty much anything that has a circuit board would no longer work, or so they say. The trouble with that statement is that while there are many varying opinions on this, the truth is that no one really knows for sure. It has never happened since the introduction of electronic devices. While the effects would be devastating without a doubt to say the very least, a lot depends on what causes it and how strong it is. Of all the possible scenarios that exist, many people put this at the top of their list.
Now let’s look at the Cyber-Attack and what we might expect from it. Power failure is the obvious one and what most people associate with it. Here is where many people go wrong, and that is the belief that all they would need to do is swap out a few computers and servers and we would be back in business again. I’m afraid there is a lot more to it than that.
While a Cyber-Attack may sound simple to fix, I assure you it isn’t. One of the effects of such an attack would be that commands from the virus used, would most likely cause the main transformers to go into “Runaway” mode. This would cause them to basically destroy themselves and send a huge power surge downstream from the transformers, causing even more damage.
Just like with and EMP, replacing them could take many years to do. As the surges continue to travel, they will most likely take out a whole lot of user equipment with it, as well. Yes, many places will have backup generators, but even they could be harmed, if the surge was large enough. Companies depend on power lines to produce everything we need, including, medicine and fuel for trucks to deliver goods to the people who need them. When the fuel for generators runs out, people on life saving equipment will start to die. Society will begin to break down and people will start to go hungry and we all know what that means (Walking Dead). Without power, there are no phones or alarms to help people who need it.
Some say that the Government will use the National Oil Reserves to help the people. To that I say “Not going to happen”. They will use what fuel there is for themselves and the heck with the people. Without power, no drugs can be made to heal the sick, of which there will be many. Dysentery and Cholera will run rampant in the streets, with no sure way to control it. War-Lords will rise up and take control of different areas, as law and order breaks down completely.
If the virus were to attack our Nuclear Reactors control systems, it would be Game Over for millions of people who live near them. Are you starting to get the picture yet? Personally, I see very little difference in the way of damage a Cyber-attack would cause in the long run, as compared to an EMP.
Now, as if that wasn’t bad enough…there are an estimated 10,000 attempted Cyber-Attacks each month right now! And that is only the ones we are told about. Now that is truly frightening!
So to sum it all up, I think that the research shows that one would likely be as bad as the other in the long run, but what is surprising is that we are much more likely to see a Cyber-Attack cripple our nation in our lifetime than any other possible scenario. It could even come from our own Government and no one would ever know. Because they have plausible deniability when it comes to Cyber-Attacks, they could choose to use it as their weapon of choice, then blame it on whomever they want.
Now I don’t know about you, but this one was an eye opener for me. Sound off and let me know what you think below. I guess that is it for today so until next time, stay safe, stay strong and stay prepared. God Save America!
12 thoughts on “EMP Vs Cyber-attack on the Electrical Grid, You may be surprised at what we found.”
I think the concern for massive radiation from nuclear power units failing is overblown. Yes, it has happened from unusual events such as happened in Japan but if the power grid goes down the nuclear plant has backup generators that will allow them to power down the plant to prevent overheating and a meltdown. An EMP, however, is another matter.
The scariest part is that a cyberattack is a resource available to rogue countries/leaders that otherwise wouldn’t have the means to perform a widespread EMP attach on the U.S. Just think back a few years to the Siemens controls/Iran nuclear plant attack attempt to see that even our country used it. Mr Robot took the concept in the direction of financial disaster so thinking about the potential to hit multiple industries makes it even scarier.
I was under the impression that the Carrington event also caused lots of fires due to the power surge. Perhaps an attack on the grid would be favourable since cars would still work. Thoughts?
Thanks for your insight. I agree it is an eye opener.
I work in the electric industry. A few years ago NERC/FERC guidelines came out attempting to secure our infrastructure. As of today most plants are still scrambling to meet demands. Controls are extensive and the low hanging fruit (such as not having computers that control the grid plugged into the Internet) have been completed. Scary, but up until a few years ago this was commonplace. Unfortunately there are still back doors that could be utilized. I will not publish what these are for obvious reasons, but it’s viable and is a vulnerability at every plant I’ve ever visited. I’ve raised the concern but current government regulations are actually preventing the closure of this weakness. What would be the outcome of such an attack? Go after the auxiliary systems. Disable the oil pumps and their emergency backups then trip the units. The turbines will coast down on dry bearings. A full bearing wipe is a month-long emergency repair if it happened to a single unit today. Now multiply that at several plants in an area: power is down, transportation and manufacturing are severely impacted – this would be catastrophic. It need not be massive attack. A few strategic hits would be enough to upset the grid and emergency systems would take out any units still online. Most plants do not have the capability to start up without getting electricity from the grid. Best guess? Weeks in a blackout while substations isolate and slowly energize small, unaffected portions of the grid (think NY in 2003). Frequent brownouts after that. A year or more without regular power would be optimistic.
Thank you for adding this comment as I know I found it very informative and actually confirms what I have been hearing. I especially find interesting the loophole that the Government is preventing from being closed. This only strengthens my belief that the Government is keeping it as a option in their bag of tricks should they decide to use it against the American People.
I agree that both scenarios would have horrific effects on our country. For me though, I am like Gary… with an EMP I fear that we will be without vehicles instantly. Whereas with a Cyber Attack, we will be able to use our vehicles for the short term (until we individually use up our stored gas) to execute our emergency plans (get to bug out location, retrieve family members, etc). That is why I think an EMP is worse than a Cyber Attack.
There has been some EMP testing. Research: Starfish Prime ,July 9, 1962 , Hawaii
Sarge, first good morning to all.This why I mentioned this last week easiest way to have controlled chaos.I’m sure alot of our military equipment scattered around this country are not protected against EMP
.Have to keep the (good guys) mobile for clean up,LATER!
the big difference I see is that with an EMP we MAY not have operational vehicles, but with a cyber attack we will likely still have vehicles that can we can use to bug out…?
I recently watched American Blackout (from 2013 Nat Geo) – an eye-opener. My favorite part was Gemma, a young woman who lives through this blackout and towards the end says “Why is nobody helping us?”. The movie, of course, has a ‘happy ending’ and their lives went on.
I agree w/you Sarge that a cyber attack is much more likely, but, either way, we’d all be screwed!
I have seen that movie too it’s pretty good. Thanks!