Black Sky Hazards
Coordinated Physical Assault
Like cyber or IEMI attack scenarios, Coordinated physical attack on critical infrastructure sector nodes, could create power outages of exceptionally wide geographic scope and long duration.
In addition, the risk of integrating physical with cyber and/or IEMI in a combined arms campaign represents another, disturbing area of risk. Military strategists have long understood that by attacking with multiple means at once, attackers can achieve a greater effect than if each element were used separately or sequentially. In a classic demonstration of the value of combined arms strategies, Napoleon’s Grand Armee employed infantry, artillery and cavalry in integrated operations to help him achieve decisive victories. Modern militaries frequently combine air, infantry and armor forces to create such synergies.
Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), expressed his apprehension about such a combined arms attack to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
“I am most concerned about coordinated physical and cyber-attacks intended to disable elements of the power grid or deny electricity to specific targets, such as government or business centers, military installations, or other infrastructures.”
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke along similar lines:
“The most destructive scenarios involve cyber actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack on our country. Attackers could also seek to disable or degrade critical military systems and communication networks. The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a “cyber Pearl Harbor:” an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life. In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.” *
* Panetta, Leon.“Defending the Nation from Cyber Attack.” Speech to Business Executives for National Security, New York, 11 October 2012. U.S. Department of Defense p. 2.
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