Late last year, an article titled “Cascade-Based Attack Vulnerability on the U.S. Power Grid“ was published in the Safety Science journal by a Chinese student and his professor. The paper explored two possible attack scenarios on the U.S. power grid and how it would respond to such attacks.
Two weeks ago, Larry Wortzel provided testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that the U.S. should be wary because “Chinese researchers at the Institute of Systems Engineering of Dalian University of Technology published a paper on how to attack a small U.S. power grid sub-network in a way that would cause a cascading failure of the entire U.S.“
Wang Jianwei, the student who published the paper, said that the purpose of the paper was to explore potential methods of enhancing power grid stability, according the The New York Times, who spoke with Wang via telephone. “We usually say “˜attack“™ so you can see what would happen,“ he said. “My emphasis is on how you can protect this. My goal is to find a solution to make the network safer and better protected.“
The U.S. views China as a major cyber threat, particularly given China’s developing cyber capabilities. Thus, while disinterested parties might view Wang’s paper as an academic study, Wortzel sees it as evidence of potential Chinese infiltration and attack capacity.
However, according to researchers and academics, the research paper published by Wang is not translatable into actual attack scenarios. The study does not contain specific information that would allow such an attack to be based on the research.