Senate Y2K czar warns about possible blackouts in Year 2000

The Year 2000 problem could cause electrical brownouts and blackouts nationwide, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said today.

Bennett, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I believe the U.S. power grid will survive Y2K...but I cannot make the same claim about other countries."

Bennett has served over the past year as a cyber-Paul Revere, warning about the problems that could occur due to noncompliant software code in computer systems that support not only the United States' but the world's critical infrastructures. Bennett said he is concerned that if power and other infrastructure systems fail, such failures could lead to "rioting and unrest."

Other infrastructure support systems threatened by Year 2000-induced meltdowns include railroads and the supertankers that provide the United States with oil, Bennett told the committee. Automation and computerization have resulted in a replacement of manual railroad switches with automatic devices. Similarly, the world's supertanker fleet is highly computerized, and Bennett wondered whether "every shipment of oil from the Mideast could be interrupted by Y2K."

Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre testified that he is concerned that computer hackers, who already have made numerous successful incursions into U.S. military and vital civilian computer systems, will try to leverage the potential confusion and chaos caused by the Year 2000. "Hackers will take advantage of Y2K," Hamre told the panel.

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