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'American Blackout': Is National Geographic's take on cyberattack accurate? (+video)

The National Geographic Channel’s fictionalized account of a 10-day blackout following a major cyberattack draws on previous events and expert opinions to paint a rather bleak picture.

'American Blackout:' Prepping for cyber attacks
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How would the average US citizen cope in the wake of a catastrophic cyberattack?

Not so well, it turns out.

As the power grid goes down across the country, the streets quickly descend into chaos while consumers ransack stores for bottled water and canned goods.

Those without sufficient cash handy are quickly in dire straits, since no electricity means no credit cards or ATMs, either.

Meanwhile, the heroes of the day are “doomsday preppers” who have had the foresight to stockpile a couple years’ worth of bottled water, batteries, and military-style meals-ready-to-eat in secret underground bunkers.

This is the scenario explored in “American Blackout,” the National Geographic Channel’s fictionalized account of a 10-day-long power outage precipitated by a cyberattack. The program airs Sunday.

“Blackout” draws on previous events and expert opinions to paint a rather bleak picture, its creators say.

The film tends to endorse the maxim, widely held in national security circles, that society is roughly nine missed meals away from chaos.

After that point, people are “pretty well prepared to do whatever it takes” to meet their needs, David Lyle, the National Geographic Channel president, warned as he introduced the film at a première in Washington, D.C., this past week.

US officials have echoed these concerns. “A massive and well-coordinated cyberattack on the electric grid could devastate the economy and cause a large-scale loss of life,” warns Richard Andres, a research fellow at National Defense University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Certainly, the average American doesn’t seem to be too optimistic about the national response in the event of, say, a major catastrophe like the loss of the power grid.


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