The FBI is investigating how an unknown group penetrated a San Jose, California power substation earlier this year, strategically cutting fiber cables and then firing over 100 rounds of ammunition into ten transformers.
The attack happened on April 16, but until now the FBI had dismissed the event as an act of vandalism, even though early FBI reports suggested the “military style” attack may have been linked to the Boston Marathon bombing that happened a day earlier.
PG&E, the company that runs the compromised power substation, disagreed with the FBI’s initial claims of vandalism, and said the attack was “not amateurs taking potshots” and then suggested the attack was more likely a “dress rehearsal” for future attacks.
Not an Isolated incident.
According to the New York Times, the FBI is also investigating a series of attacks in Arkansas where high-voltage power lines were deliberately severed in at least three separate attacks. Utility officials have asked the public to stay alert, and are also investigating whether a September 29th fire at an electrical substation in Arkansas is somehow connected with the power line attacks.
Most people mistakenly assume our public utilities are safe; shockingly, they are incredibly vulnerable to attack. We’ve covered numerous examples of our nation’s public utilities being breached by either terrorists or foreign governments.
Over the last ten years, the attacks have become increasingly more sophisticated. From al-Qaeda operatives in Denver, who were arrested with documents detailing plans to contaminate the country’s water supply; to a series of hacker attacks that penetrated a number of our nations water supply plants, these attacks show just how vulnerable our infrastructure really is.
In one attack, just days before the 10th anniversary of 9-11, over seven million people went without power in one of the largest Blackouts in California history. Although the FBI denies the outages were related to terrorism, no official cause was ever given, and the outage came just hours after the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about a potential terrorist attack leading up to the anniversary.
The bottom line is this: our nation’s infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable to attack. Earlier this year we talked to Damon Petraglia, a Cyber-Terrorism expert and member of US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force, who told us, the country is “under attack 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” He went on to say, “Our military systems are probed in excess of hundreds of thousands of times per hour,” and “our private industry can claim similar statistics.”