Would your family survive without power? Purdue cyber forensics team tests nationwide power grid

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Should a disaster strike, would we be ready to handle it? A recent study says half the households in America wouldn’t be prepared to stack up against disaster.

A key part of our infrastructure in the U.S. is constantly under attack -- the National Power Grid. Right now, a cyber forensics professor at Purdue University is part of a national team that’s researching how well our country can defend itself.

"The national exercise involves members of Purdue's cyber forensics team,” Purdue graduate student Jake Cambic said. “Their goal is to keep power grid systems like this from falling under attack."

With the roll of a mouse, Kambic sifts through columns of code, looking for hackers trying to break into (in this case) a made-up system.

"What we're looking at here is attack traffic. This is actually from the DOD (Department of Defense) Cyber Crime Challenge," Kambic said.

Kambic and others at Purdue's cyber forensics lab are focused more on the work of their professor, who cannot be contacted. He is in a secure facility in Washington, D.C., with the CIA, FBI and other national security agencies.

They are doing a training exercise too -- one that will help us maintain our electricity-dependent way of life.

"There's a simulation going on called GridEx," Purdue PhD student Eric Katz said.

For the next two days the national team will launch a series of simulated attacks on the U.S. power grid.

"(It’s) an attempt to see where we're strong, where we're weak and what improvements we can make," Katz said.

The exercise begs the question: How would Hoosiers fare if the grid went down?

Most usually feel confident they can go down to their local convenience store or megastore (Target, Walmart) to get what they need. Homeland Security officials said most people can't get their heads around not being able to do that in a disaster.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security recently surveyed 2,500 residents. More than half of the respondents admitted to not having three days’ worth of food and water on hand.

Experts said it’s clear: Many Hoosiers simply do not have backup plans for everyday life.

While people consider their families’ preparations, cyber security work continues at Purdue in a constant effort to keep restaurants, hospitals and gas stations open and the grid up and running.

Homeland Security experts recommend Hoosier families store a modest amount of food and water. They also suggest families develop their own disaster or emergency plan.

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