We may worry about hackers taking down the electrical grid, says Eugene K. Chow at The Week, just like we worry about, for example, bikers hitting frail old ladies crossing the street. But both threats are overblown. Like biker-on-old-lady violence, cyberattacks are so rare that they’re notable — we fear them and talk about them precisely because they don’t happen very often. But the true threat lies elsewhere, with more common villains. On the street, of course, it’s cars. In the nation’s electricity infrastructure, it’s squirrels.
Even squirrels are proving to be, well, a squirrelly problem. No one really knows how much damage the rodents do, but it’s certainly more than hackers manage. A cursory analysis in The New York Times found that over a four month span last year, squirrels caused at least 50 power outages across the country — and those were just the ones that made the news. And while no one knows how many people are affected by squirrel-related outages each year, in just two days last June, four squirrel-related incidents left more than 18,000 homes in four different states in the dark. How do squirrels manage such mayhem? They simply chew through wires or scamper over fragile electrical equipment.
Of course, it’s possible that the hackers have hacked the squirrels and are controlling their sharp little teeth from Romania. In this day and age, you can never be sure.