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article imageArmy cuts power to large military base to simulate cyberattack

By Karen Graham     Apr 29, 2019 in Technology
Last week, the U.S. Army's largest military base, Fort Bragg in North Carolina was purposely plunged into darkness for 12 hours. This was done to “determine the readiness and resiliency of the installation in a real-world scenario."
Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the world, covering about 163,000 acres, almost 50,000 soldiers and about 30,000 other residents. The base is home to the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps and Special Operations Command.
Fort Bragg is more than a military base - it is a fully operating town, with housing for soldiers and their families, stores, restaurants, hotels, museums, post offices, and more. The unannounced exercise was conducted to see what would happen in the event of a cyber attack, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Power on the base went out and the flow of water was curbed at about 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday and returned over the course of the day on Thursday last week. The Army told the Charlotte Observer the drill was to “identify shortcomings in our infrastructure, operations, and security,” and wasn’t announced to the public in order to “replicate likely real-world reactions by everyone directly associated with the installation.”
A Facebook message on Thursday afternoon explained what had been going on: "Good afternoon all! We understand the exercise conducted caused concern for many within our community and surrounding areas...for that, we apologize. However...we had to identify ways to keep #FortBragg mission capable."
"Department of Defense requires military installations to conduct readiness exercises on an annual basis. The intent is to determine the readiness and resiliency of the installation in a real-world scenario. With that said, our objectives have been met and as many of you know, everything is back to normal. We appreciate your patience and cooperation. Continue to be #vigilant and stay #safe."
Reactions varied from business as usual to panic
There was some confusion and panic as people realized the traffic lights were off, but the base did warm people to be careful while driving. “Driving in Fort Bragg is extremely hazardous at this time especially at the intersections so use caution when approaching them. If you observe any suspicious activity call 911,” post officials said in a 5 a.m. Facebook post.
Base officials were able to keep everyone in the dark about what was happening and even Womack Army Medical Center on the post took to its Facebook page to report they were open for emergencies but outpatient appointments were being rescheduled due to the blackout.
Besides some people being worried about food in the freezer thawing or not enough water for a bath, others took to Facebook in a lighter frame of mind, with one FB user writing: "I guess it's a grill, beer, and lawn chair kinda day."
The power grid and infrastructure are vulnerable
Russians hack Ukraine’s electricity network, turning lights off and on at will. North Korea hackers take over a South Korea nuclear plant. Snipers with high-powered rifles destroy a San Diego electrical transmission line. These scenarios have already happened in the past.
This is cyberterrorism - the sabotage of vulnerable electrical grid systems accomplished with the click of a mouse or a high-powered rifle. Sabotage can go even further than just causing a loss of electrical power, though.
Did you notice in the story that played out at Ft. Bragg that everyone took to social media to find out what was going on? The Internet was working, as were the telephone lines.
What if the Army had been able to shut off access to the Internet? The thing is, although most government agencies and major corporations have fully deployed individual tools as information security measures, targets of attacks have expanded to include, other than government institutions - our critical infrastructure, from electrical grids to potable water and more.
We live in an age where we have become dependent on the Internet and electricity. Losing electrical power is something many of us are used to, especially in today's extreme weather events. This is all the more reason to be prepared ahead of time.
However, with just about everything we do, from banking, communication, and contact with the world, in general, being done on the Internet, Fort Bragg putting the base through a live drill should provide the military with some new information moving forward.
More about Cyberattack, ft bragg, loss of electrical power, Electrical grid, Water supply
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