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Russians 'could have thrown switch' on U.S. power grid

The dangers of an electromagnetic pulse event – from a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere or solar storm – long have been reported.

A rogue nation could explode a bomb at altitude that could shut down America’s power grid.

No electronics.

No food in stores, because shipping fleets are powered by fuel that comes through electric pumps.

No communications, because those systems are powered by electricity.

No lights. No heat (except for the few with wood stoves).

No life support in hospitals. No mass transit. No air traffic. No web.

Now an expert from the London Center for Policy Research has confirmed that the Russians could do the same thing with a few computer commands.

Writing for the New York Sun, Betsy McCaughey bluntly warned, “Kremlin-connected cyber-criminals are capable of turning off our electric power from afar while power-plant employees watch helplessly.”

She cited Department of Homeland Security briefings in recent weeks that warned Russian hackers already are practicing how to “throw the switch and cause a blackout.”

“Yet nearly all Washington pols are ignoring the danger. To the public, ‘power’ means electricity. To self-absorbed politicians, ‘power’ means elections, votes and protecting their seats. That disconnect explains why they’re in a frenzy over Russians hacking into campaign email accounts instead of dealing with the far larger peril of Russians hacking into the electric grid,” she explained.

The Russians already have “invaded” some 100 American electric-power companies, hacking into systems to the point they could have caused blackouts, she said.

“In Ukraine, they did. They flipped the switches on three Ukrainian utilities on Dec. 23, 2015. Local engineers in control rooms sat stunned as cyber-criminals operated controls remotely, plunging hundreds of thousands of people into frigid darkness. That was the first long-distance cyber-attack to take down a power grid.”

To America, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained, it would be the same as a Cat 5 hurricane.

The reprieve so far has been because Russians are still in reconnaissance, McCaughey said.

“Here, they’re setting up internet sites to lure vendors who service the utility companies. They steal vendors’ passwords and other codes to infiltrate control rooms and gather information on how the utility is digitally controlled,” she warned.

While the U.S. has three power grids and many hundreds of power sources, even a partly successful attack could “cost billions of dollars in lost economic production, and even worse, many lives.”

Nielsen has initiated a response with a National Risk Management Center that links federal agencies with electric companies.

“Sadly, most members of Congress are all-consumed with protecting their own line of work instead – getting re-elected,” McCaughey explained.

“They’re focused on the fact Russians were behind the release of emails and campaign memos unflattering to the Clinton campaign, and some of the inflammatory political rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 election.”

American agents told the New York Times on condition of anonymity last month that Russian hackers were focusing on America’s electrical grid.

And the Washington Free Beacon reported the previous month that major attacks from hackers on the grid were increasing.

Back in March, Trump administration officials confirmed Russians attempted to hack into the grid.

Katie Pavlich at Townhall reported “a number of Russia government entities hacked into the U.S. energy sector contributing to the broader power grid, with successful intrusions into U.S. systems.”

The report says there was no indication of when the hacking happened, only that it was stopped immediately when it was detected.

One official said 4,000 U.S. targets of Russian cyber attacks were notified last year of their vulnerabilities.