[ISN] Feds relied on 'Cold War' crisis plan in blackout

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Mon Jan 12 2004 - 00:15:00 PST

  • Next message: InfoSec News: "[ISN] New Trojan masquerades as Windows XP update"

    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wk@private>
    
    http://torontostar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1073862608195&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968705899037
    
    Jan. 11, 2004
    
    OTTAWA (CP) - Throughout the massive summer power blackout, the
    federal government relied on a master emergency plan dating from the
    Cold War that was "badly in need of revision."
    
    Newly disclosed memos reveal the musty manual, confusion about the
    seriousness of the power outage and subsequent communication
    breakdowns were just some of the shortcomings during the mid-August
    power failure that left most of Ontario  and much of the rest of
    northeastern North America  in the dark.
    
    The internal documents are among almost 1,500 pages of records on the
    blackout obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to
    Information Act.
    
    Some 50 million people in Canada and eight U.S. states were affected
    by the failure that originated in Ohio on Aug. 14 and rapidly
    triggered a series of power shutdowns.
    
    Since electrical generation and distribution fall under provincial
    jurisdiction, Ontario took the lead in tackling the emergency.  
    However, the federal government was responsible for providing support
    to the province during the crisis.
    
    The Government Emergency Book is supposed to serve as a blueprint for
    co-ordinating a federal response to calamities, but has lagged
    woefully behind the times, notes a memo by an analyst with the Office
    of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness,
    known as OCIPEP.
    
    "The (book) was prepared during the Cold War era to provide for civil
    support to military mobilization in the event of a Soviet incursion
    across the Elb River in Germany or other types of nuclear or `national
    emergency' of the Cold War sort," the analyst wrote.
    
    "It is badly in need of revision to reflect the new realities of
    events that can occur in North America including cyber-attacks,
    terrorism-related incidents, and cascading critical infrastructure
    failures resulting from a power outage."
    
    The analyst argued that drafting a plan to handle the crash of key
    utilities "would seem to be a priority for OCIPEP as well as the
    (federal government)."
    
    OCIPEP has since been rolled into the new Public Safety and Emergency
    Preparedness Department created by Prime Minster Paul Martin's
    government.
    
    Emergency agency spokesman Max London insisted in an interview that
    the outdated manual did not hamper the federal response to the
    blackout. But London added that he didn't disagree with the need to
    update the book and said the process is under way.
    
    Another internal OCIPEP memo recommends the agency assess the risks
    posed by the aging electric infrastructure in Ontario  a move that,
    if undertaken before the blackout, "may have pointed to
    vulnerabilities" in the province.
    
    The study may extend to Quebec, where the hydro infrastructure is
    threatened by electromagnetic storms that strike the long power lines
    running south from James Bay, the memo adds.
    
    London, however, suggested that such work could stray beyond the
    emergency agency's mandate. He indicated the operators of hydro
    systems are best placed to undertake such studies.
    
    The memos show some federal emergency personnel incorrectly assumed
    the blackout, which occurred near the end of the workday, was a local
    problem.
    
    "Staff waited for about 10 minutes and began drifting out with a `see
    you tomorrow wave,' " noted one employee, adding that in future "no
    one should leave until the dimensions of the situation are known."
    
    The documents also reveal it took three days for OCIPEP to get key
    advice from the Natural Resources Department, the federal agency
    responsible for the energy and utilities sector.
    
    One memo laments the lack of timely information from the department on
    the cause of the power interruption, the magnitude and scope of the
    crisis and the likely impacts.
    
    London played down the lack of contact between the departments.
    
    "The early hours of any emergency are characterized by a certain level
    of confusion (and) conflicting information," he said.
    
    "We were not suffering from a lack of information."
    
    
    
    *==============================================================*
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
    ================================================================
    Help C4I.org with a donation: http://www.c4i.org/contribute.html
    *==============================================================*
    
    
    
    -
    ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org
    
    To unsubscribe email majordomo@private with 'unsubscribe isn'
    in the BODY of the mail.
    



    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Jan 12 2004 - 02:49:44 PST