Headline: Substation Attacks Increase. In late 2022, several Duke Energy substations came under “targeted” attack. Two of these attacks occurred in North Carolina. Following that, at least six “substation intrusion events” occurred in Florida.
On September 21, Zephrhills North substation in Pasco County experienced a 9-minute outage when an intruder forcibly entered the facility and manually tripped equipment. A 2-minute outage occurred in Pinellas County the next day due to a similar intrusion at Duke Energy’s East Clearwater substation. The sites were 50 miles apart. Both incidents occurred in early morning hours between two and four.
Experts acknowledge that there is a growing threat to our infrastructure. While these attacks are not new, they are becoming more common with seemingly more intent on causing damage. Duke Energy is investigating incidents while beefing up protection at these sites. Guards and CCTV at substations is just one way they are doing so. Other power companies are hardening their defenses with automated bullet-resistant gates, also known as ballistic gates, like the StrongWeld Defender.
Law enforcement and utility companies are actively working on ways to mitigate these vulnerabilities and enhance security measures at substations. These incidents have raised concerns about the security of critical infrastructure, and it is apparent stronger engineering controls need to be put in place to prevent other such attacks.
In other areas of the country, attacks have occurred as well. In Tacoma, Washington four electricity substations were attacked, affecting thousands of customers in the surround areas. These attacks were classified as vandalism and the culprits were not found. While they were labeled as acts of vandalism, the true motives remain unclear. Were these economic crimes or extremeist demonstrations? We are left to speculate on the intent and possibility of recurrence.
With attacks increasing year to year, vulnerable substations now make easy targets for anyone. With cybersecurity always being a possible threat, the time is now to act on security hardening, both virtual and physical. Our national safety depends on it.