Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

Ted Koppel
In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.   Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.  It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”  And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.


Reviewed: 2020-11-14
LAME! I stupidly thought this was a thriller, but it was actually non-fiction. Written by a Boomer who is clearly afraid of technology. I would still like to read about cybersecurity, but not from this guy. Glad it was on sale. Now I know why.
Reviewed: 2018-07-30

This is a frightening book, and honestly I'm surprised this hasn't been talked about or cared about more. The book is broken into three parts. The first talks about attacks at power plants and cyber attacks on major companies in the US. There is even a discussion about how the US and Israel attacked Iranian enrichment plants and how the attacks were not discovered for quite some time. In fact, when the attack was realized it had set the Iranian enrichment program back by two years. 

The second part is a frightening example of how local, state and federal government officials are not addressing this issue, and how little is being done. There's not even a basic idea of what the average citizen should do to prepare for a blackout that could affect them for weeks or even months, forget about years. 

In the third section there are interviews with people who are prepared for blizzards, who live off the grid and in that section the reader is given some idea of how to prepare. 

After watching a piece on Sixty Minutes last night about how easy it is to break into a cell phone, and having read earlier about how Russia and China may already have tagged weaknesses in our power grid. This is a topic to seriously understand and prepare for. 

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