FIGURE 1.7 Simple classification of potential power system attackers.

in Columbia, FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) has mounted hundreds of attacks on a monthly basis against transmission and distribution systems with the objective of diminishing the power and standing of the central government authority and strengthening FARC’s hand in any possible future political settlement. Twenty years previously, Sendero Luminoso mounted similar attacks in Peru. With the capture and imprisonment of almost all of the senior leadership of that organization, such attacks have now largely ceased.

There have been frequent attacks on transmission and distribution facilities in Iraq by insurgent groups intent on contributing to general social disruption, embarrassing central authorities, and preventing the normalization of daily life.

Many such attacks have occurred across Asia. For example, terrorist groups in Thailand have recently increased the size and numbers of their attacks against electric power facilities as part of a broader campaign to bring down the central government in Bangkok. Many parts of Africa have also witnessed such attacks.

Although in the United States attacking the power system may not be as attractive to serious terrorist groups as bombings, or radiological, chemical, or biological attacks, there are enough examples of attacks elsewhere around the world, and enough plausible circumstance under which an attack might occur in the United States, to warrant serious attention and careful planning and preparedness.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a range of worst-case terrorist attack scenarios for use in gaming, in consequence assessment and management, and in supporting the development of detailed plans and response strategies (Lipton, 2005). Most of these scenarios deal with weapons of mass destruction which would not be particularly appropriate for attacks on the power systems, and in particular on the transmission and distribution system.

Nevertheless, the power industry itself has conducted scenario-based tabletop exercises to examine possible attack scenarios and their consequences. These have included a variety of exercises involving attacks against the transmission and distribution system. Individual power companies, as well as reliability organizations and trade and research organizations, have also conducted detailed power system attack simulation studies and threat assessments in order to identify vulnerable assets and to develop protective actions as well as response and recovery strategies.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement