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by CSO Contributor

Unavailability of Data May Have Worsened Blackout; FBI Says Terrorists Look at Power Grids; Colleges Rush to Secure Student Networks; Microsoft Office Flaw Revealed

Sep 05, 20032 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Unavailability of Data May Have Worsened Blackout

The August 14 blackout may have been caused in part by the inability of a computerized regional system called the System Data Exchange to inform administrators of transmission line failures, according to an article in the New York Times. The Times reports that Joseph L. Welch, chairman of the International Transmission Company in Michigan, said that his utility’s review of records found nothing about the failure of seven separate transmission lines, most in the territory of the FirstEnergy Corporation, in Ohio.

FBI Says Terrorists Look at Power GridsNewsday. The story reports that Larry Mefford, the FBI’s executive assistant director, told the House homeland security committee that terrorists have “a variety of means” to attack power grids: blowing up power-line towers and attacking conventional or nuclear power plants, though he said there have been “no specific threats to nuclear power plants in the United States.”

Although terrorism is not considered a cause of last month’s blackout, two government counterterrorism officials said yesterday that terrorists have shown interest in attacking electrical grids and would have a number of ways of doing so, according to a story in

Colleges Rush to Secure Student NetworksWashington Post. The story reports that anxious administrators at George Mason University have unplugged thousands of students from the school’s network in an effort to avoid viruses.

As computers have transformed the way students and teachers interact at most universities, school administrators are focused on protecting their networks, and at many schools students are required to run computers through a security check before logging on, according to a story in the

Microsoft Office Flaw The story reports that the company said a “critical” flaw in its Visual Basic for Applications software, used to develop applications for Windows and Office, could enable a malicious programmer to create documents that would launch attacks on unsuspecting users.

Microsoft has warned that users of its Office software were at risk of having their computers taken over by an attacker unless they applied a patch to correct the problem, according to a story on