During the past Sunday, nearly 50 million people woke up without electricity in Argentina, neighbouring Uruguay and in part of Paraguay. Almost all Argentinians lost power. At the moment the public still does not know the reason, and the government initiated an investigation: how is it possible that a 21stcentury developed country finds itself from one moment to another being shut down?

Although I am not promoting conspiracy theories, it would be interesting to consider a scenario in which this massive power outage might not have been accidental:

As the global security arena has shifted, and bipolarity was replaced by a strong US with several smaller, but still considerable powers, such as China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea, the means became different to meet the ends. Previously, during the Cold War, the two blocks maintained peace by mutual threat and fear. Since the US became the policeman of the world, the above powers are seeking alternate ways to influence or conquer other nations, by manipulating their economy and democratic institutions.

Russia (and in lesser extent North Korea) is the best example to see, how a nation with limited military resources turns towards other options to cause serious damage in foreign adversaries’ reputation among their own population (see the latest US presidential election, or the French and Ukrainian elections, which Russia was mingling with).

Cyber-attacks on election systems are not the only way by which influence or change can be achieved. Attacking or hacking communication infrastructures of strategic importance, power plants (nuclear or not), the press, etc. can accomplish similar results: damage on the government’s reputation, economic harm, frustration among the population, and, as in the case of Argentina shows, even influence elections. On past Sunday, Argentina was holding provincial elections, forcing citizens to cast their ballots by candle light or their cell phone’s screen light. Traffic in Buenos Aires halted as street lights and traffic lights failed, shops stayed closed, ATMs did not operate, and during mid-afternoon still half of Argentina was without power.

So, how could a cyber-attack send back a developed country to the “dark ages”? The whole electric grid in modern countries is automated. When imbalances that can cause major harms are detected, the system shuts down to protect itself. When the attacker creates a “sense of imbalance” in the system, it triggers a shutdown - if the false imbalance is major or its located in a central part of the system, the whole grid goes off.

No need for electro-magnetic pulse weapons, as far as the system protecting the grid is vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Was last Sunday’s incident in Argentina a test by a foreign power? If yes, by whom? In that case, will the Argentinean government admit it, that it is completely vulnerable to external powers and cannot protect its own citizens?

 

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