Can Russia Hack the Grid? Would Renewables Help?

June 13, 2017


They hacked the election.

in a pinch, they will hack the grid. Bet on it.

Washington Post:

Hackers allied with the Russian government have devised a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life, according to U.S. researchers.

The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is known to have disrupted only one energy system — in Ukraine in December. In that incident, the hackers briefly shut down one-fifth of the electric power generated in Kiev.

But with modifications, it could be deployed against U.S. electric transmission and distribution systems to devastating effect, said Sergio Caltagirone, director of threat intelligence for Dragos, a cybersecurity firm that studied the malware and issued a report Monday.

And Russian government hackers have shown their interest in targeting U.S. energy and other utility systems, researchers said.

“It’s the culmination of over a decade of theory and attack scenarios,” Caltagirone warned. “It’s a game changer.”

The revelation comes as the U.S. government is investigating a wide-ranging, ambitious effort by the Russian government last year to disrupt the U.S. presidential election and influence its outcome. That campaign employed a variety of methods, including hacking hundreds of political and other organizations, and leveraging social media, U.S. officials said.

Dragos has named the group that created the new malware Electrum, and it has determined with high confidence that Electrum used the same computer systems as the hackers who attacked the Ukraine electric grid in 2015. That attack, which left 225,000 customers without power, was carried out by Russian government hackers, other U.S. researchers concluded. U.S. government officials have not officially attributed that attack to the Russian government, but some privately say they concur with the private-sector analysis.

“The same Russian group that targeted U.S. [industrial control] systems in 2014 turned out the lights in Ukraine in 2015,” said John Hultquist, who analyzed both incidents while at iSight Partners, a cyber-intelligence firm now owned by FireEye, where he is director of intelligence analysis. Hultquist’s team had dubbed the group Sandworm.

“We believe that Sandworm is tied in some way to the Russian government — whether they’re contractors or actual government officials, we’re not sure,” he said. “We believe they are linked to the security services.”


US Department of Defense:

The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest single consumer of energy in the United States. It operates over 500,000 buildings and structures with diverse inventory encompassing barracks, commissaries, data centers, office buildings, laboratories, and aircraft maintenance depots. A majority of these bases are largely dependent on a commercial power grid that is vulnerable to disruption from cyber-attacks, aging infrastructure, weather-related events and direct attack. In an effort to reduce energy costs, increase security and improve energy resiliency, DoD has adopted the following energy strategy for fixed installations:

  • Reduce the demand for traditional energy through conservation and energy efficiency
  • Expand the supply of renewable energy and other forms of distributed energy
  • Improve the energy resilience of installations
  • Leverage advanced technology for energy resource efficiencies and increase security advancing control systems cybersecurity capabilities, tools, knowledge and skills

In line with the above strategy, ESTCP funded Mr. Ryan Faries from Raytheon and his team to demonstrate that microgrids with low cost, large-scale energy storage systems (ESS) have potential to enhance energy security on military installations by facilitating integration of more renewable energy and reducing single-point-of-failure vulnerabilities associated with tradition electric service and back-up generators. This project was conducted at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar.

The project involves integrating the advanced Zn/Br Battery and Intelligent Power and Energy Management (IPEM) microgrid control technologies with the infrastructure at MCAS Miramar to provide energy security, islanding capability, and reduced costs. The demonstration connects MCAS Miramar’s Department of Public Works building to the ESS and solar photovoltaic (PV) system, enabling the building to receive power while disconnected, or “islanded”, from the grid.

The goal of the project is to peak shave and island the building circuit for 72 hours under controlled loads. The islanding duration is directly related to 3 main factors: battery energy capacity, PV system generation (solar resource), and load reduction. For demonstrating the islanding capability, the project simulated commercial power grid interruption and powered the building by PV and storage. The monitoring and control system controlled the ESS and collected the power usage data and the data was then analyzed to determine if building loads were met during operational day scenarios.

The project successfully demonstrated the microgrid controller’s ability to integrate and control the ESS, PV system and facility loads while connected to and islanded from the grid.  The technology was able to manually increase and decrease the building load by more than 50% during islanding and the ESS was able to store energy during off peak time and discharge about 100kW of energy during peak time for close to 3 hrs.  While the demonstration did not meet the success criteria for the islanding duration, the system was able to power the DPW building from the PV array and ESS alone for over 5 hours and at its peak output, the PV array provided over 75% of the power to the facility. Additional details about the demonstration and results can be found in the project’s Final Report which is available on the project webpage.

Nature Scientific Reports:

n this paper we combined a topology-based approach from network science with energy balancing of the power grid to estimate the grid stability under the outage of transmission lines. We have shown that even if the power grid gets fragmented under an outage, many of the resulting fragments may be self-sustainable if the production within the fragments is readjusted. If this compensation is not sufficient or not feasible within the existing margins to cover the total load, the fraction of distributed generation may be increased as compared to the fraction of conventional production. This means, the higher the percentage of renewable energy sources, the larger is the probability that a fragment is self-sustainable if the fluctuations of RES can be controlled. One option for their control may be distributed storage. Therefore RES are not only ecologically beneficial, but may enhance the power grid security. Smart islanding at the level of the transmission system may therefore mitigate the impact of large blackouts.


56 Responses to “Can Russia Hack the Grid? Would Renewables Help?”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    Fake news, absolute nonsense!

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Some people agree with you!

      “I don’t know – it’s hard for me to see any Trump ties to Russia…
      except for the Flynn thing
      and the Manafort thing
      and the Tillerson thing
      and the Sessions thing
      and the Kushner thing
      and the Carter Page thing
      and the Roger Stone thing
      and the Felix Sater thing
      and the Boris Epshteyn thing
      and the Rosneft thing
      and the Gazprom thing
      and the Sergey Gorkov banker thing
      and the Azerbaijan thing
      and the “I love Putin” thing
      and the Donald Trump, Jr. thing
      and the Sergey Kislyak thing
      and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing
      and the Russian Business Interests thing
      and the Emoluments Clause thing
      and the Alex Schnaider thing
      and the hack of the DNC thing
      and the Guccifer 2.0 thing
      and the Mike Pence “I don’t know anything” thing
      and the Russians mysteriously dying thing
      and the Trump’s public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing
      and the Trump house sale for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing
      and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC during Trump rally campaign thing
      and the Nunes sudden flight to the White House in the night thing
      and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing
      and the Cyprus bank thing
      and Trump not releasing his tax returns thing
      and the Republican Party’s rejection of an amendment to require Trump to show his taxes thing
      and the election hacking thing
      and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing
      and the Steele Dossier thing
      and the Leninist Bannon thing
      and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing
      and the intelligence community’s investigative reports thing
      and the Trump reassurance that the Russian connection is all “fake news” thing
      and the Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing
      and the Chaffetz not willing to start an investigation thing
      and the Chaffetz suddenly deciding to go back to private life in the middle of an investigation thing
      and the Lead DOJ Investigator Mary McCord SUDDENLY in the middle of the investigation decides to resign thing
      and the appointment of Pam Bondi who was bribed by trump in the trump university scandal appointed to head the investigation thing
      and the White House going into full-on cover-up mode, refusing to turn over the documents related to the hiring and subsequent firing of Flynn thing
      and the Chaffetz and White House blaming the poor vetting of Flynn on Obama thing
      and the Poland and British intelligence gave information regarding the hacking back in 2015 to Paul Ryan and he didn’t do anything thing
      and the Agent M16 following the money thing
      And now the trump team KNEW about Flynn’s involvement but hired him anyway thing
      and The Corey Lewandowski thing
      and the Preet Bharara firing thing but before he left he transferred evidence against trump to a state level Schneiderman thing
      And the Betsy Devos’ Brother thing
      And the Sebastian Gorka thing
      And the Greg Gianforte from Montana thing
      And the Pence actually was warned about Flynn before he was hired thing
      and the Pence and Manafort connection thing
      and the 7 Allies coming forward with audio where trump was picked up in incidental wiretapping thing
      and the carter Page defying the Senate’s order to hand over his Russian contact list thing
      and the Obama coming forward and saying he warned trump directly thing
      and the trump wants to VETO Sally Yates’ testimony thing
      and the trump tweets attacking Yates and defending Flynn thing
      and the “no evidence of collusion” attributed to Clapper, who never said such a thing, thing.
      and the “18” days before Flynn was fired thing
      and the witness intimidation through tweets thing

      Other than those “THINGS” there’s probably nothing there!”

      Kat Quell

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Another example of Vera’s stupidity. She has picked up “SUB” somewhere and insists upon showing us how cool and clever she is by using it. Too bad she doesn’t quite get what it means and misuses it every time. That’s our gal, unaware of her own failings but always ready to say “shit-fuck-suck” to her betters.

      PS to GB. Have seen other compilations like this, but this one is the most extensive and best so far. Good job on finding it.

      And the best our russian troll and Putin whore can say about this Crock piece is “fake news, absolute nonsense”? I’m sure she understands little of the technical aspects, but that doesn’t stop her from spouting her usual inane bullshit in denial of truth.

  2. webej Says:

    More (public) fact-free speculative Russian conspiracies.
    High time the DOD makes sure that controllers are on networks that have end-to-end encryption, not because of the Russians, but because the internet is full of hackers and criminals.

    So far the US is the only country to have demonstrably engaged in cyber warfare (stuxNet), as it is the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons. No other country has so far crossed this line, although of course there are all kinds of parties engaged in (industrial and commercial) esponage, not to mention secret government agencies (the USA has 1 million people working in this sector!), criminals, and tech-hooligans looking for a challeng.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Never thought I’d say I was glad to see DweebyJ, who has normally been Vera’s little russian troll helper and butt sniffer, but he demonstrates here a level of duplicity and cleverness that surpasses Vera’s by miles and is at least a small challenge to Crockers.

      A half-decent attempt by him to deflect the discussion away from the russian hackers and obfuscate, and he actually has the balls to take a swipe at the USA for using the A-bomb on Japan. Awesome, and I like the statement that the US is the only country to have “demonstrably engaged in cyberwarfare”, conveniently ignoring all the evidence that it’s RUSSIA that is the leader there.

      Attention, russian troll masters? Can you retire Vera to the psychiatric facility she so badly needs and replace her with DweebyJ? His work is superior to Vera’s, and he knows how to use multisyllabic words.

  3. It gets worse

    Russian Cyber Hacks on U.S. Electoral System Far Wider Than Previously Known

    Attackers said to take measure of voting systems, databases
    A ‘red phone’ warning to the Kremlin from Obama White House

    Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

    In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

  4. Slightly OT , but relevant to the general AGW diswcussion

    If a single ship can capture the current state of the global oil market, it’s the supertanker Saiq, floating idly about 850 kilometers (530 miles) south of the Canary Islands.

    Until a few days ago, the 330-meter-long tanker, chartered by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, was steaming at 13 knots toward the Chinese port of Tianjin after loading a 2-million-barrel cargo of North Sea oil at the Hound Point terminal near Edinburgh. Then, it suddenly stopped in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Its problem: China isn’t buying much crude right now, leaving the tanker searching for a customer. While the vessel was floating near Africa last week, Shell offered to sell the cargo in a ship-to-ship transfer all the way back in Scotland. There weren’t any takers.

  5. vierotchka Says:

    The mainstream U.S. media has assumed the role of protecting the American people from alternative viewpoints, which is why Oliver Stone’s long-form interviews with Vladimir Putin are such a concern, reports Robert Parry.

  6. vierotchka Says:

    The U.S. political/media demonization of Russia’s Putin is unrelenting, but an interview series with director Oliver Stone poses tough questions to Putin while also letting Americans see the real person, writes Robert Parry.

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