Cyber Attack Drill Exposes How Unprepared City Is For Grave Threat

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The scenario: a cyber attack on the energy infrastructure in the northeastern United States. 37 million people knocked off the power grid. How do we recover? That was a drill held late last year and just now made public by the feds. It shows the potential impact on the Philadelphia area and just how much there is to do to shore up weaknesses.

The simulated strike on a critical power system hobbled service for several weeks. Cellular and emergency radio communication were brought to their knees due to depleted backups. Water and sewage treatment plants needed additional fuel to prevent a pollution disaster. Food and water were at a premium, with many grocery stores closed.

The exercise, led by the Department of Energy, saw oil refineries in greater Philadelphia shut down by the fictitious attack. That caused a daily shortage of tens of millions of gallons of gas, leading to panic buying and empty fuel stations.

The report outlines a lengthy to-do list for government agencies and the private sector, including coordinating planning and response efforts; communicating information to the public and managing expectations about restoration times; and practicing things like this — more often than the six years since the last such major multi-state test.

The Pentagon has started testing new technology from BAE Systems designed to detect and respond to infrastructure network attacks.

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