In 2012, Austrian author Marc Elsberg released his best-selling novel Blackout: Tomorrow Will Be Too Late. It’s a disaster thriller that focuses on cyber-terrorism. A group of disenfranchised hackers manipulates a network of European power stations, destabilizing the grid, and plunging Europe into chaos.
The loss of power is a catalyst that leads to a domino effect of disasters, from food shortages and the devaluation of money to nuclear catastrophes and societal collapse. Elsberg was praised for his meticulous research and realism. Of course, Blackout takes the dangers of a cyber-attack to the extreme, but it’s all within the bounds of possibility.
Though the events that take place in Blackout are a work of fiction, as more cities embrace inter-connectivity and smart technology, the threat of serious cyber-attacks on digital infrastructure is very real. In 2015, a cyber-attack compromised Ukraine’s power grid, compromising corporate date, denying the distribution of energy, disabling IT infrastructure, and destroying countless data files.
As cities get smarter, it begs the question: if a power station can be hacked, what else can be?