US power grid system to undergo simulated attack

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The U.S. electrical grid system is about to come under a simulated attack. According to SmartGridNews, the North American Electrical Reliability Council (NERC) will launch a simulated attack on the U.S. power grid, beginning tomorrow. The attack will last 36 hours. Participants will include 65 utilities and eight transmission organizations.

This sounds very much like "Quantum Dawn 2", the simulated cyber attack on U.S. banks and stock exchanges that was staged in July this year under the auspices of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).

The idea is to simulate what would happen if someone hacked into the national power grid, and were able to shut down all or part of the nation's power supply.

How prepared is the U.S. electric grid for a cyber attack? According to the website, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has broad authority to protect against cyber attacks, but lacks specific legal authority to enforce regulations, a critical oversight that needs to be fixed.

As with stock exchanges, there are attempts to mandate standards for protecting the grid that have only been partially successful. For example, the website notes that standards promulgated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are voluntary when they should be mandatory.

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By CNBC's Bob Pisani