The Northeast Blackout of 2003 was a major event that occurred in 2003, ten years before the events of Watch Dogs. Although this occurred well before the game takes place, it is a major event that shapes the story of both Watch Dogs and its DLC Watch Dogs: Bad Blood.
The Northeast Blackout of 2003 was a widespread power outage that occurred throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and the Canadian province of Ontario on Thursday, August 14, 2003, just after 4:10 p.m. EST. The blackout was caused by Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney, a former Blume Corporation employee who worked on CTOS.
Ray's true intent was to demonstrate to the public that one person could shut down an entire electric network and to warn about the dangers of the CTOS. However, the blackout caused the unintended death of eleven people. One of the casualties was Defalt's brother, a mental patient on suicide watch, who took advantage of the blackout to escape and hang himself.
Following the blackout, Ray was forced to hide from Blume and ensured that no one could track him down before living a new life in Pawnee under the alias of "T-Bone Grady". The blackout set Defalt out for revenge, who then started working as an informant for Blume, expecting to find him and avenge the death of his brother, unintentionally caused by Raymond's actions.
The Northeast blackout of 2003 was a real-life event. It was caused by a software bug in the alarm system at a control room of the FirstEnergy Corporation. The lack of alarm left operators unaware of the need to re-distribute power after overloaded transmission lines hit unpruned foliage, which triggered a race condition in the control software. This localized blackout later escalated into massive widespread distress on the electric grid. The real-life blackout caused the deaths of about 100 people as compared to 11 deaths in the Watch Dogs universe.