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US Takes Steps to Prepare for Natural Disaster and Cyberattack

11th December 2018
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Worrying new report from US advisory council tells White House that an extended power outage is 'profound threat'

D onald Trump has reportedly been urged to protect critical infrastructure in a bid to prevent “catastrophic” widespread electrical failures in the event of a cyberattack timed to coincide with a natural disaster.

The US President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) has warned the White House and Department of Homeland Security that an extended power outage represents a “profound threat”.

According to a worrying report on Cyberscoop, the threat of a natural disaster and “cyber-physical event” happening at the same time is becoming “more urgent”.

The NIAC was founded in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Eight of its members reportedly resigned in August 2017 in response to the President’s “insufficient attention” to critical vulnerabilities in US national security.

T he Council has recommended that the US government should clarify which department does what in the event of a natural disaster affecting the US power grid. US cybersecurity agencies should also have specific authorities to protect the grid in the wake of a natural disaster, the report says.

The report states, “Significant action is needed to prepare for a catastrophic power outage that could last for weeks or months,” the report found, adding that a cyberattack timed to coincide with a natural disaster could be especially problematic.”

It continues, “Although emergency authorities are understood at a high-level, how they are implemented in practice is unclear…There is a better understanding for physical events that are more frequently practiced, but it is less clear for cyber-physical events and larger-scale disasters.”

Extreme weather events ranked as the largest risk facing the world over the next five years, followed by large-scale hacking, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018.

Last month the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) carried out an exercise with to try to restore power following a hypothetical cyberattack.

The report also recommended that regional exercises are carried out and that emergency communication protocols are developed.

How long will – or can – it be before the UK takes similar steps? The affects of a natural disaster are catastrophic without extended power outages hindering rescue efforts. Watch this space…