Amid warnings that North Korea and Iran have plans to take out parts of the U.S. electric grid through a cyber attack or atmospheric nuclear blast, the Pentagon is taking steps to both protect the nation's communications and power lifeline.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has charged BAE Systems to map a system that can detect a cyber attack and gin up an alternative communications network for military and civilian use if the grid is fried, according to Defense Systems, the online newsletter.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey has been warning for years that the grid is extremely vulnerable, and recently the Pentagon and some states have taken the warning seriously. Woolsey and former EMP Commission chief of staff Peter Vincent Pry have pointed a finger at North Korea, which is now threatening the U.S.
DARPA's focus is on thwarting a cyber attack, but Pry and Woolsey have also warned that North Korea or Iran could attack the grid with an atmospheric nuclear explosion over the East Coast that will disable the grid and that could end up leading to the death of 90 percent of those in the East.
The DARPA plan presented in Defense Systems has several elements react to attack.
First, it would include ways to sense an imminent attack that would trigger protections. And if damaged, it would have an alternative way for communications killed in the attack to continue in a backup system — key for the military and presumably the financial system.
It won't be ready until 2020.
In a statement, DARPA said it is "interested, specifically, in early warning of impending attacks, situation awareness, network isolation and threat characterization in response to a widespread and persistent cyber-attack on the power grid and its dependent systems. Potentially relevant technologies include anomaly detection, planning and automated reasoning, mapping of conventional and industrial control systems networks, ad hoc network formation, analysis of industrial control systems protocols, and rapid forensic characterization of cyber threats in industrial control system devices."
The program is dubbed Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems. Defense Systems talked with a BAE official who said, "The purpose for this program is to provide a technology that quickly isolates both the enterprise IP network and the power infrastructure networks to disrupt malicious cyberattacks."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org