How quickly would chaos set in if the U.S. fell victim to a cyberattack that took out one of the nation’s power grids?
Not long at all, according to award-winning broadcast journalist and former ABC “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel.
Koppel, who is the keynote speaker during Tuesday’s general session at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, addresses the topic in his latest book, “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.”
An Internet-based attack on one of the nation’s three power grids could result in a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that leaves tens of millions of Americans without electricity, running water, plumbing, the ability to communicate, and other necessities.
“You would quite literally have more than 100 million people without electricity for a period of at least weeks and maybe months,” he says.
That’s not to mention the financial services system going down and health facilities becoming severely handicapped, he adds. “We tend to take it for granted but most of us, certainly the city dwellers, are almost totally dependent on electricity.”
In the longterm, Koppel believes the U.S. needs to design new, stand-alone systems outside of the gigantic power networks. “But these are programs that will take years if they were started right away. And there doesn’t seem to be any particular incentive right now to get these programs under way.”
Koppel hopes “Lights Out” will create discussion about this issue that ultimately spurs the government and other parties to action.
“I hope to begin a national dialogue on this subject—and what better time to do it than right in the middle of the presidential campaign?”