Power Disruptions: Cyber Looms Large, But Rodents Rule
- March 5, 2016
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The threat of cyber attacks on electrical grids looms large. Just last month, U.S. investigators found evidence confirming a December attack on a Ukrainian power grid caused a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people.
However, while utilities and grid operators have got to allocate resources to defend against such attacks, a large chunk of operating budgets must still go to dealing with an entirely different scourge.
A relatively new site tries to put the cause of outages into perspective. The aptly named Cyber Squirrel 1 interactively displays “all unclassified Cyber Squirrel Operations that have been released to the public that we have been able to confirm.”
At the start of this year, the project verified 623 power outages that were directly and publicly attributed to squirrels, as well 347 disruptions that could be blamed on other animals, according to The Guardian.
Utilities and grid operations have known about the squirrel problem for years. Numerous news stories (such as those reported here, here, and here) have tried to draw attention to the issue. Most utilities have taken steps to guard against attacks. And many have drawn up guidelines to try to reduce the problem. For example, an industry article last year recommended that utilities: “Review your protective equipment: If you have any animal-deterrent gear — a fence, line spinners, pole guards or other equipment — inspect it to make sure it’s secure and operating properly.”
So while cyber threats are gaining a deservedly larger share of people’s mindset, utilities and grid operators cannot afford to neglect the persistent rodent problems related to outages and disruptions.