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Squirrels or Hackers: Who's the Bigger Threat to the Power Grid?

January 15, 2016 Leave a comment dridrive

Squirrel in a jumpWhen it comes to power outages, severe weather gets most of the press — and there’s always the looming threat of a hacker taking down infrastructure. But one persistent cause often escapes unnoticed: the wily squirrel!

It’s true: while the recent hack of the Ukraine power grid seemed to confirm fears around the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure, a far more likely danger exists in the form of furry critters biting and burrowing into things they shouldn’t.

And while storms are responsible for the most long-lasting and widespread outages, animal-caused outages are the most common. Washington-area utilities say birds and critters accounted for 9% to 21% of unplanned outages in the region in 2013 and 2014.

In fact, the American Public Power Association has taken to tracking squirrel-related power outages with its own “Squirrel Index.” Then there’s CyberSquirrel1.com, which maps out outages caused by woodland creatures (mostly squirrels, along with the occasional bird or raccoon).

So if you were thinking of celebrating Squirrel Appreciation Day on Jan. 21, remember: it’s a squirrel world, and we’re just living in it.