Tag Archives: War

Distant Killers


There was a time you had to stand in front of a man and look him in the eye when you killed him.

Those centuries are past.

Today, men on the far side of the world can decide your fate with the push of a button.


State of War and the Right to Self-Defense

It is the unjust use of force then, that puts a man into the state of war with another; and thereby he that is guilty of it makes a forfeiture of his life: for quitting reason, which is the rule given between man and man, and using force, the way of beasts, he becomes liable to be destroyed by him he uses force against, as any savage ravenous beast, that is dangerous to his being.

Source: John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 16, Of Conquest

Black Sky Hazard – Geomagnetic Disturbance (Severe Space Weather)

Typically many times each year, the sun ejects a portion of its coronal mass into space. If the highly- energetic, electrically and magnetically charged matter characteristic of these Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) encounters the Earth it distorts the Earth’s geomagnetic field, inducing potentially damaging GIC (Geomagnetically Induced Current) in long transmission lines and transformers, the “ligaments” of a national-scale power grid.

Severe Space Weather-induced Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) can last anywhere from several minutes to several days. Depending on the magnitude and duration of unplanned, transient current and the design and condition of transformers, especially the critical Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers, voltage instabilities and transformer damage or degradation can occur.

In modern times, satellite-based sensors observe powerful Coronal Mass Ejections relatively frequently. Historically, the frequency at which powerful CMEs have affected the earth is estimated as once per 100 – 200 years. The largest CME-event in relatively recent history, the “Carrington Event,” occurred in 1859, followed 62 years later by another event of similar magnitude, the 1921 “Railroad Storm.” Although both events caused serious damage to the global telegraph network and the related systems that existed at those times, effects of similar storms on modern power grids would be incomparable.

Such an event almost took place quite recently, when a Coronal Mass Ejection occurred in July, 2012. According to researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), if the eruption had occurred one week earlier massive clouds of magnetized plasma would have struck the earth. The resulting geomagnetic storm, according to NASA scientist Daniel Baker, would have been at least as strong as the Carrington event.

Original article: GMD – Geomagnetic Disturbance

Black Sky Hazard – Coordinated Physical Assault

Like cyber or IEMI attack scenarios, Coordinated physical attack on critical infrastructure sector nodes, could create power outages of exceptionally wide geographic scope and long duration.

In addition, the risk of integrating physical with cyber and/or IEMI in a combined arms campaign represents another, disturbing area of risk. Military strategists have long understood that by attacking with multiple means at once, attackers can achieve a greater effect than if each element were used separately or sequentially. In a classic demonstration of the value of combined arms strategies, Napoleon’s Grand Armee employed infantry, artillery and cavalry in integrated operations to help him achieve decisive victories. Modern militaries frequently combine air, infantry and armor forces to create such synergies.

Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), expressed his apprehension about such a combined arms attack to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

“I am most concerned about coordinated physical and cyber-attacks intended to disable elements of the power grid or deny electricity to specific targets, such as government or business centers, military installations, or other infrastructures.”

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke along similar lines:

“The most destructive scenarios involve cyber actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack on our country. Attackers could also seek to disable or degrade critical military systems and communication networks. The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a “cyber Pearl Harbor:” an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life. In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.”

Original article: Coordinated Physical Assault

Black Sky Hazard – Cyber Terrorism

While industry and government have made good progress in strengthening security against cyber threats, the destructiveness and sophistication of cyber weapons have grown rapidly. Critical infrastructures now typically work to continually advance and adapt protective measures, network architecture designs and security protocols.

The pervasive and covert nature of this threat has dramatically affected the architecture of security protocols in the United States and allied governments. During the 20th Century, the traditional security framework of the military-industrial complex was characterized by a clean division of responsibility, with private industry producing weapons and services for the Federal government, and the nation’s armed forces providing security for the nation. Now, utilities are attacked many thousands of times every day by cyber weapons, and are ultimately responsible to their customers and shareholders for securing their own systems and operations against such threats. To help meet this novel challenge, Federal agencies have partnered with utilities to create an unprecedented array of mechanisms for information sharing and security collaboration.

A similar transformation in security architecture is underway within the government – in particular, between states and the Federal Departments traditionally responsible for security challenges. Now, state-governors who have the primary responsibility for the public health and safety of their citizens must directly address security concerns stemming from cyber-threats.

The Cyber Threat to Electric Infrastructure

One of the most critical security priorities for state-governors has become protection of electric infrastructure against targeted attack. An extended power outage caused by a cyber-attack would jeopardize the functioning of hospitals, municipal water systems and other infrastructure vital for saving and sustaining lives, as well as directly threatening state information networks and functions that are vital for continuity of government and the delivery of essential services.

As cyber-attacks become more frequent, energy systems are increasingly being targeted. DHS’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) reported responding to 198 cyber incidents in fiscal year 2012 across all critical infrastructure sectors. Forty-one percent of these incidents involved the energy sector, particularly electricity. The number of such reported attacks grew to 256 in 2013, with over half targeting the energy sector.

This targeting of the electric infrastructure is one of the central concerns that caused the widely reported, recent conclusion by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) that cyber-attacks are eclipsing terrorism as the primary threat facing the United States.

A key, central concern, for both the electric grid and other lifeline infrastructures, is that confidence in assuring the security of such infrastructures against a determined, carefully planned cyber attack on systems critical to national grid continuity is far less than 100%. As a result, it is now broadly accepted that the risk of a consequent multi-region, long duration power outage, associated with widely distributed grid IT, OT and critical hardware damage, is significant.

Original article: Cyber Terrorism