Power Grid and Systems Under Threat

During the weeks and months in the aftermath of the events in NYC and at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 there were several incidents that came to light regarding threats to infrastructure.

As a Director of the third largest Security consulting and contract security company in the USA we dealt with several incidents where "unknown actors" attacked power substations, telephone network and major junction boxes, and much more. We observed where attackers were shooting nearly irreplaceable 13,900 KV power transformers. They were throwing truck tow chains on top of them causing them to short out and light on fire. None of the acts were fancy, complex, or high tech. Just the same they took out the power to entire communities for days, sometimes weeks. The worst thing about it was that even with proof presented, the local law enforcement agencies were not interested in chasing the issue. The idea was that it was vandalism and "a one off". In fact, it was not. It was the beginning of series of events, low level, low news attention, yet highly disruptive, and targeted. They were generally targeted a profit or interdiction of supplies for wrongdoers.

Understanding the way that subversive groups work, acting in ways that yield maximum disruption, distraction, or destruction, while generally succeeding in authorities determining coincidence or incidental. This allows them to test, tweak their skills, and then hit one big hit with maximum results.

My concern would be that the actors, acting alone (disruptors), or in concert (distractors) distract authorities, allowing high threat contraband or people i.e. a suitcase nuke, terrorists, or other things to slip by. Everyone would be looking at the destruction or disruption, never realizing that the "package" slipped by.


The USA DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 25 July 2006

Thousands re−screened after California airport security breach — July 24, Associated Press

Both terminals at John Wayne Airport, 35 miles south of Los Angeles, were temporarily evacuated Sunday evening, July 23, and passengers were taken off airplanes after a female passenger made it past a security checkpoint without being screened, authorities said.

Hundreds of travelers −− even those aboard airplanes −− were required to undergo a second security check, said Nico Melendez of the Transportation Security Administration. Six outgoing flights were delayed as passengers were re−screened and put back on the planes, Melendez said. An alarm sounded shortly after 5:30 p.m. PDT and Orange County Sheriff's deputies and airport security began evacuating the terminals. Lines snaked out the doors as travelers lined up again in front of checkpoints. Many passengers missed their flights and were forced to rebook on later flights.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2006−07−23−security−brea ch_x.htm

The DHS in 2016 made a concerted effort to educate and inform people about threats to the USA power grid, read an article on the topic.

We will continue monitoring the situation.


Below you will find some of the most noteworthy occurrences of system, power, and infrastructure failure.

Power Outage ATL - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 2017-12-17

A significant power outage grounded over 1,000 flights, stranding many passengers in planes and dark terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Power was completely out for over 11 hours. The outage occurred in the aftermath of a large fire in an underground power substation around 1300 hrs (1 pm) ET.

Power Outage LEX - Blue Grass Airport Lexington, KY 2017-10-25

The outage occurred at approximately 0530 hrs taking out the runway lights. Airport officials say that the cause was a failure during testing. The outage lasted 90 minutes.

Power Outage TUS - Tucson AZ Airport 2017-11-03

Airport runways closed runways and operations.

Power Outage PHX - Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor International Airport 2017-10-11

All security check points, luggage, and ticketing operations were down for over one hour.

Software Fault Air Control SYD - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 2017-09-25

At 0520 hrs, local time, all systems went down in the air control operations. All flights were cancelled. Airservices Australia spokeswoman said, "Airservices experienced a software issue affecting Sydney Airport's air traffic control and management system, resulting in major disruptions to flight operations this morning,".

Power Outage LGA - LaGuardia Airport 2017-09-21

Port Authority Police reported that they were evactuating all travelers to another terminal as a result of a power outage at around 0730 hrs.

Power Outage PTY - Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama 2017-09-18

Unexplained power outage closed the airport in the early morning and it remained closed until the following day. There were 140 flights were cancelled.

Power Outage MIA - Miami International Airport 2017-08-25

FAA reports 'power problem' at Miami Terminal Radar Approach Control took down the entire airport's radar system. Florida Power & Light said on Twitter that the situation at the control center was "not related to FPL service."  The problem was reported by airport spokesman to a be result of a problem with an uninterruptible power system (UPS) that caused the outage. She said the UPS was repaired in the afternoon and power was only out for five minutes, from 11:24 a.m. to 11:29 a.m., before the generator was used. Flights were advised to act with caution because the tower was radar blind.

Power Outage BRU - Brussels Belgium National 2017-06-15

BRU was hit with a power outage totally taking down all airport functions. The outage hit at 0500 hrs local time. No cause was provided.

Power Outages LAX, Los Angels, Downtown Manhattan NYC, San Fransisco 2017-04-21

Beginning at 0720 hrs in NYC shutting down subway systems, businesses, and completely until 1130 hrs when generators came online for critical systems.

Later the same morning LAX and surrounding areas went dark for a while.

San Fransisco at roughly the same time as LAX experienced a massive power failure knocking "the majority of the city out of commission".

System-wide Outage 2017-01-03

US Customs and Border Protection experienced a system outage at Logan Airport and other airports around the country on Monday night. In their statement they said, they are taking “immediate action to address the technology disruption.” The agency did not elaborate on which other airports were affected.

Power Outage LAX - Los Angeles International Airport 2016-12-18

LAX Public Relations Director Nancy Suey Castles, two "momentary" power outages occurred at about 7 p.m. and impacted all facilities in the Central Terminal area, as well as some surrounding areas. Some departure flights were delayed by 30 minutes to one hour implying that the outage also affected tower or runway operations. The outage even affected several traffic lights.

Power Outage EWR - Newark Liberty Airport 2016-09-12

2 power outages around 1800 hrs took down one terminal. It stalled flights in and out of the airport for one hour. The FAA tower was not affected. Officials said, "It's not clear what caused the outage. A source says a backup generator didn't kick in like it was supposed to -- and that meant planes couldn't push back from the gate nor could arriving flights come in."

Power Outage Terminal 8 - JFK Airport NYC 2016-08-16

The outage which occurred in two waves began around 1350 hrs ET. It affected the escalators and also the baggage checking systems.

Power Outage DTT - Detroit Metro Airport 2016-08-08

0230 hrs to 0840 hrs the entire airport and surrounding area were completely blacked out grounding flights.

Power Outage ATL - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 2016-08-08

A power outage at its Atlanta headquarters caused a global computer failure that halted all flights. The outage caused a cascading failure of check-in systems, airport screens and even the airline's website and smartphone apps were affected by the meltdown, which began at 0238 hrs ET. The outage lasted six hours. The airline suspended departures, with airport agents writing out boarding passes by hand. “Our systems are down everywhere,” it told customers on Twitter. The outage ended at about 8:30 a.m. ET, with "limited" resumption of flights. By 1330 hrs ET, some 451 flights had been canceled and less than 1,700 of its 6,000 scheduled flights were in operation, the airline said.

Power Outage SNA - John Wayne Airport in Southern California 2012-09-14

The outage John Wayne Airport in Southern California hit while passengers for the first flights out of the airport were going through security screening.

Transportation Security Administration passenger and luggage screening devices were rebooted and passenger screening has resumed.

Power Failure Runway MDW - Chicago Midway Airport 2012-06-29

The airport was shutdown for 4.5 hours beginning at 2030 hrs (8:30pm) CT.  Passengers were deplaned and operations were halted until the entire facility was inspected.