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Ted Koppel: Apocalypse likely

Taylor Armerding | Nov. 17, 2015
The veteran TV newsman, in his new book “Lights Out,” argues that the nation’s energy grid is grievously vulnerable to a catastrophic cyberattack, and that the government is essentially unprepared to respond to it. But critics say that while there are risks, they are not nearly so dire.

He writes that while there are plenty of government plans to respond to natural disasters, there is no apparent plan for the aftermath of a catastrophic cyberattack – no long-term storehouses of food and water, no way to provide lights, heat, sewer and medical services in a dense metropolitan area like New York City.

In an interview, current secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson insisted there was a plan, but didn’t know where it was, and recommended that people make sure they have a battery powered radio.

Heimerl said that doesn’t prove anything, and contends there are plans in place to deal with a grid failure. “Parts of the power grid can be run by less automated controls or some of the grid could be restored manually,” he said.

Still, the Johnson interview was enough to send Koppel on a journey, mostly in the West, to talk with “preppers” – those who prepare for the worst with everything from “bug-out kits” designed for surviving the first two or three days of a disaster, to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on outfitting property with buildings, solar panels, cesspools, wells, generators, weapons, ammunition and root cellars for long-term storage.

He spent several days observing the way Mormons have been organized for decades to survive a major catastrophic event.

And he noted that for those who can afford it, there is even a decommissioned missile silo in Kansas, converted into luxury underground condos for $1.5 million to $3 million, which includes five years worth of freeze-dried and dehydrated food.

Koppel may indeed be listening only to those who exaggerate the threat. But worst-case scenarios, if they prompt greater efforts to avoid them, can be very useful.

Or, as Carl Wright, general manager of TrapX Security, puts it, “Power plants and our energy grid remain high-risk targets.

“It is imperative that we find new and innovative ways to detect adversaries early, mitigate the effects and then defeat them.”


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