Quebec’s electrical infrastructure has zero security

As I am writing this, André Caillé, Hydro-Quebec‘s president explains nervously how Radio-Canada’s reporters setup an elaborate scenario – their breakin into two major hydro-electric facilities is mostly nonsense, according to him.

Yesterday the same report was broadcasted and I missed it, as I am in the middle of a couple of brain-draining projects and shut myself off from most of the world for the day.

The reporters were able to enter the core of the two facilities with their truck and stand right next to control panels responsible for providing electricity to millions of households in Quebec province and also the U.S., as HQ sells part of its electricity down south. No apparent cameras, no guards, no employees (well, one in the whole time they spent there), no security at all.

During this news broadcast, Radio-Canada also invited Martin Courcy and Roger Chartrand, two security experts, to comment on the incidents. Mr. Courcy performed physical audits in 1992 and gave recommendations to solve the exact same problems shown in the reports. It’s interesting they discussed that there are several implications to these security problems, other than terrorism. An important step to protect such facilities is to have 24/7 onsite or remote surveillance, but most importantly, have some way of giving more priorities to general security, including making it impossible to enter the facilities with a truck!

There was also discussion of the possible vulnerabilities of the electrical network managed by HQ, which was put to the test during the great ice storm in 1998. There is this false impression that some of the facilities are so remote that they are secure just because of their geographical location, and also the fact that there is so much redundancy in the network that there is a sense of invicibility.

HQ tried to get an injunction to block the broadcast of the report, claiming national security would be compromised (hasn’t it already ?), fortunately the judge had another opinion about hiding this.