The need for enhanced security at substation plants is getting national attention due to a recent uptick in physical attacks and vandalism. The security of these plants is proving to be crucial to local infrastructure and residents’ quality of life. As of late, a North Carolina community is an example of how utilities vandalism can impact surrounding areas. Over 40,000 homes and businesses recently lost power for days and Moore County was essentially disabled due to an attack on two substations, with damage left by gunfire.
Unfortunately, this is not just a localized threat. According to a federal law enforcement memo obtained by NewsNation, “Power stations in Oregon and Washington have reported physical attacks on substations using handtools, arson, firearms, and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure.” The memo said the aim of the attacks are “”to cause widespread power failures with the potential impact of social disruption and violent anti-government criminal activity.” In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security fences by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance or throwing objects over the fence and on to equipment.”
These attacks highlight growing concerns regarding the vulnerability of the nation’s electric grid to vandalism and other threats. According to Tony Sleva, an industry consultant with Prescient Transmission Systems, as quoted in SecurityWatch, incidents “often involve gunfire that penetrates the fairly thin radiator walls surrounding a transformer, causing oil to leak out and the transformer to overheat and fail”. He noted that in addition to building in redundancies, regional substations need to be hardened via perimeter and threat detection.
As physical security threats continue to occur, companies in the substation industry must adopt a defense-in-depth approach to physical security and modernize their systems. Convergint’s team of experts can integrate a system to harden devices and mitigate risks associated with substation utilities infrastructure.