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Possible Terror Attack on NC Power Station Reveals Vulnerabilities in US Power Grid: 'Very Difficult to Protect'

(Image credit: CBN News)

The hunt is on for the suspect who shot up two energy substations in Moore County, NC last Saturday.

Charges could range from conspiracy to possibly murder after one person died in a house with no power.

"We're trying at this point in time to validate if it was related to the power outage or a normal medical condition," said Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips.

Roughly 35,000 people were still without power Tuesday night, three days after the attack.

And with no power, life has become difficult for residents now in the cold and dark.

Volunteer groups are handing out food and water to those impacted. "It gives you a lot of hope when people are trying to help you," said 80-year-old resident James Hargrove.

The attack raises the possibility of a terror attack, and with no suspect or motive the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and ATF have joined local authorities in the investigation.

In its November terrorism bulletin, DHS officials warned of potential attacks on power infrastructure. 

"We're still waiting for the investigation to figure out who is responsible, but it does cause some concern that we do have some violent extremists at play here," said Elizabeth Neumann, Former Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention for DHS under the Trump Administration.

On CBN's Faith Nation, Scott White, the director of the cybersecurity program at George Washington University, said the problem points to vulnerabilities in the nation's power grid.

"One of the biggest problems we have in the grid is that it's so diffused," said White. "I mean there are miles and miles of tracks of towers that are sitting out there on very unpopulated areas. So, the grid itself is very difficult to protect."

With 55,000 substations across the country, authorities are concerned about copycat attacks.

"It wasn't an explosive device or a drone attack. It was a rifle. This was rather low-tech, and so the concern is that such a low-tech attack could put 45,000 people without power," White explained.
While small-scale attacks are easier to pull off, there are also concerns about cyberattacks aimed at doing wide-scale damage to the grid.

In 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a strong warning saying, "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.  An attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new profound sense of vulnerability."

When asked whether the North Carolina attack was the work of a lone wolf, or a terror cell White said nothing can be ruled out.

"It could be anybody from a disgruntled employee to a disgruntled customer or as you said it could be someone from an organized terrorist group. We don't know," said White.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy hopes to have all power restored Wednesday evening. 

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