In this New York Times bestselling investigation, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid. The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.
In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?
With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.
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About the Author
TED KOPPEL, a 42-year veteran of ABC News, was anchor and managing editor of Nightline from 1980 to 2005. New York University recently named Koppel one of the top 100 American journalists of the past 100 years. He has won every significant television award, including 8 George Foster Peabody Awards, 11 Overseas Press Club Awards (one more than the previous record holder, Edward R. Murrow), 12 duPont-Columbia Awards and 42 Emmys. Since 2005 he has served as managing editor of the Discovery Channel, as a news analyst for BBC America, as a special correspondent for Rock Center, and continues to function as commentator and non-fiction book critic at NPR. He has been a contributing columnist to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal and is the author the New York Times bestseller Off Camera.
Table of Contents
Part I A Cyberattack
1 Warfare 2.0 3
2 AK-47s and EMPs 21
3 Regulation Gridlock 31
4 Attack Surfaces 43
5 Guardians of the Grid 55
6 What Are the Odds? 69
7 Preparing the Battlefield 83
8 Independent Actors 95
Part II A Nation Unprepared
9 Step Up, Step Down 113
10 Extra Batteries 125
11 State of Emergency 145
12 Press Six If You've Been Affected by a Disaster 157
Part III Surviving the Aftermath
13 The Ark Builders 169
14 Some Men Are an Island 185
15 Where the Buffalo Roamed 201
16 The Mormons 219
17 State of Deseret 227
18 Constructive Ambiguity 241
19 Solutions 251
20 Summing Up 271
Epilogue: The Virtue of a Plan 289
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What differentiates fear mongering from wisely sounding the alarm? The subject matter -cyber warfare, most likely on the US electric infrastructure, is one which has most respond dismissively. We move into denial. What would psychiatrists offer regarding this reaction? Mr Koppel recognizes our risk, and the response of various government agencies as likely to be woefully inadequate. This is a worthwhile read, and perhaps enough to move the reader to action.
In this hyper-connected digital age, our lives revolve around technology, the majority of which depends on electricity. The systems that deliver that electricity are also computerized and networked, and therefore vulnerable to cyberattack. So what would happen if such a cyberattack were to take place? Is it possible to take down a major electrical grid with a virus or some other form of cyberattack? What are we doing to prevent such an attack? What would be the aftermath of such an attack? What is the government prepared to do in the wake of such a disaster? These are just a few of the questions examined by Ted Koppel in his book "Lights Out". Like most Americans, I haven’t given a lot of thought to how it is that my lights turn on every time I flick a switch, or how dependent I am on the internet to manage my everyday life. When I do lose access to electricity – usually from a storm (I live in the northeast) or some sort of accident that took out a pole – I feel immediately frustrated and cut off from the world, but also feel certain that it will only be a few hours of inconvenience. When it takes longer than expected, I start to worry about food going bad in the fridge/freezer. What will I do when my cell phone runs out of power (we have VOIP at home – no landline)? But the power usually magically turns back on before any of that is much of an issue, and once it’s over, I forget about it and move on. But what if it didn’t magically turn back on after a few hours? What if the power was out for a week? Or a month? Or a couple of months? What if instead of the power being out on my street or my block, it was out in the entire city for an extended period of time? What if it was the whole state? What if it was several states? Or the entire eastern seaboard? What if it was New York City or DC? Ted Koppel does a really wonderful job of explaining how such a catastrophe could happen, and what very little is being done to counteract or prepare for such a horrific event. And it would be horrific. Especially in urban areas. It wouldn’t be long before we would run out of food and gas (need electricity to get it out of the underground storage tanks). If it was winter, shelter would quickly become an issue. We saw what happened during Hurricane’s Katrina and Sandy. Generators only last so long and not everyone has one. Very few people know how to survive without the conveniences of modern life. If we had to live without them indefinitely, which is what would happen if there were a cyberattack that took down a major grid, it wouldn’t be like before chaos set in. Are there things that could be done to prevent such an attack? What is being done to prepare for the long-term impacts of a cyberattack? The answers are much more complicated than you might think. But Koppel does a fabulous job of explaining it all, in a very approachable and interesting way. Non-fiction is not my bag, but this is a topic that should be seriously discussed, one that we should all be thinking about, and this book brings the topic to the surface in a concrete way. It’s really a problem that we have ignored entirely too long, and who know what continuing to put our heads in the sand is going to cost us.
Hardcover (edit) Review First off I won an ARC of this book through Read It Forward. This is a frightening book, and honestly I'm surprised this hasn't been talked about or cared about more. The book is broken into three parts. The first talks about attacks at power plants and cyber attacks on major companies in the US. There is even a discussion about how the US and Israel attacked Iranian enrichment plants and how the attacks were not discovered for quite some time. In fact, when the attack was realized it had set the Iranian enrichment program back by two years. The second part is a frightening example of how local, state and federal government officials are not addressing this issue, and how little is being done. There's not even a basic idea of what the average citizen should do to prepare for a blackout that could affect them for weeks or even months, forget about years. In the third section there are interviews with people who are prepared for blizzards, who live off the grid and in that section the reader is given some idea of how to prepare. After watching a piece on Sixty Minutes last night about how easy it is to break into a cell phone, and having read earlier about how Russia and China may already have tagged weaknesses in our power grid. This is a topic to seriously understand and prepare for. (less)
I’ll have to say, I am not prepared for anything on a scale like this to happen. A riveting, scary read. The quote of “not if but when…” is eye opening. I’m a fan of CSI Cyber, but this is factual, and not a TV show. In this digital age, this is the new warfare, cyber warfare. I believe we take for granted the power/electrical sources we have, and everything is digital. I really recommend all Americans read this. This is stuff the U. S. Government hides from us so we will not panic. Great read and needful. Thorough research and extensive interviews from top reliable sources. Not just “conspiracy theories”. This would affect every area of society. We would be back in the dark ages. He explains the power grid and how it operates so we can have a better understanding of the catastrophic results of a cyber attack. Again, I highly recommend this book. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review and I am so glad I chose this one to review.
I grew up with Ted Koppel on tv. My dad always watched Nightline and I remembered being oh, so bored! I hated politics then and still do today. It's in my genetic make-up. Genes that weren't passed down from my dad. Lights Out, however caught my attention. Not because of politics, but because it deals with a long-time threat to the US and lends to the apocalypse: Cyber Attacks! Everyone knows what to do if the zombies attacked, but what if there were no zombies, but you still had to deal with no electronics, no water, no food and no electricity. Yeah, I know I named two items dealing with power but no electricity and no electronics are two totally different things. When your device dies, you normally go to electricity in your home or car... but what if they're dead too? This book not only deals with attacks on the power grids, Mr, Koppel also speaks on EMP's, no batteries, States of Emergency, and the worst of all... out of control people... For the rest of this review: http://tinyurl.com/gwr9xzv ** Book provided by The LibraryThing.com for an honest review.
Every citizen and every lawmaker should read this book. It's a must read since the danger is real. It's not if but when hackers will take down our electric grid.
I frankly didn't expect to glean much from this since I have been familiar with the EMP-related reports to Congress and novels describing the aftermath of an EMP attack. BUT, this book covers another risk to the U.S. power grid that I hadn't considered -- cyber attack. Koppel is a fair and balanced journalist in revealing the risks to our power systems and how the power industry and our governments are totally unprepared for the extended likely chaos which would ensue from a simple cyber attack. And he doesn't stray into political discourse or diatribe -- refreshing. He also covers many things I had been unaware of, including the single most prepared group in the U.S. for extended emergencies and crises; hint -- it's not FEMA) -- you'll need to pick this book up to find out all this and more. Provocative.
Excellent insight into the possible terrorist attack on something that has become to be seen as a basic necessity. The potential is there. Now, what to do about it? Obviously the government is doing anything. Overpaid politicians leaving the ball in the citizen's hands to personally solve, so as not to interrupt their programs for reelection.
Mr Kopple has done a great job to bring this serious threat to all who care about their familes. Honest reporting and indepth interviews with the real players in the power industry and goverment leaders as well as state and local people who know the goverment is unperpared for any such attack on the power grid. The public needs to get their $#!/ together and their face out of their phones and social media BS so when the lights do really go out they will have a plan for their family. If they think the goverment will be there for them then I feel sorry for that person. You don't need to be a prepper but you need a plan for several weeks without food,fuel,water,sanation,and your beloved phone! JON
I found this book very informative and enlightening. I took my time reading this boo only because I wanted to digest the information that was in this book longer. Mr. Koppel brings the news to you and does not stray from it. Anyone interested and intrigued by world events or the cyber world will find this book a great read. I was drawn in by Mr. Koppel's writing. Also, I found his interviews with people fascinating. It did not seem like the things the people said were edited to the point that you could read this information on the internet and I did not feel like I was shorted by facts. In fact, the more that I read the more I realized that sometimes not knowing is living in happy bliss. What I mean by this is that when you don't know everything that is going on behind the scenes like a movie than you still enjoy that movie but how many times have you read about the way a movie was made and maybe your perspective about that movie was changed. All I have to say is that "Zombies" are not the thing that we need to fear but a cyberattack. Which the government already is aware of could happen and they have prepared while the rest of the world is living in "happy bliss".