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Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
November 16, 2015 @ 12:00 am
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.
About the Book — In this tour de force of investigative reporting, 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.