Misinterpretation of a paper produced by Chinese researchers about weaknesses in the U.S. power grid set off a panic about China’s intentions when Larry Wortzel, a military strategist, testified about it in front of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. The New York Times reports:
“Already people are interpreting this as demonstrating some kind of interest that China would have in disrupting the U.S. power grid,” said Nart Villeneuve, a researcher with the SecDev Group, an Ottawa-based cybersecurity research and consulting group. “Once you start interpreting every move that a country makes as hostile, it builds paranoia into the system.”
Mr. Wortzel’s presentation at the House hearing got a particularly strong reaction from Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California, who called the flagging of the Wang paper “one thing I think jumps out to all of these Californians here today, or should.”
He was alluding to concerns that arose in 2001 when The Los Angeles Times reported that intrusions into the network that controlled the electrical grid were traced to someone in Guangdong Province, China. Later reports of other attacks often included allegations that the break-ins were orchestrated by the Chinese, although no proof has been produced.
In an interview last week about the Wang paper and his testimony, Mr. Wortzel said that the intention of these particular researchers almost did not matter.
“My point is that now that vulnerability is out there all over China for anybody to take advantage of,” he said.
But specialists in the field of network science, which explores the stability of networks like power grids and the Internet, said that was not the case.