Cyber security expert says threats are “worse than generally believed” among utilities

November 30, 2013

There's no question that electric utilities around the world are waking up to the fact that wireless connections and new communication platforms are exposing them to serious cyber security risks.

However, Robert Hinden, chair of the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) that keeps tabs on the international community known as Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), recently wrote an article warning the conditions may be worse than many think.

Mr Hinden wrote in Information Week that the smart grid movement will see substations, distribution and transmission networks and smart meters all outfitted with IP networks. While this will give utilities unprecedented access to data, it will also create untold numbers of new access points, driving up the need for penetration testing and other enhanced vulnerability management techniques.

"If the vulnerabilities and security concerns are not addressed, the consequences will be terrible," he warned.

"An attack against a corporation would be inconvenient for the company, and online identity theft can be troublesome to the victim, but a smart grid attack would impact more victims and have far-ranging effects."

These fears aren't overblown, either. According to the US Department of Homeland security, 41 per cent of cyber attacks in 2012 targeted the energy sector.

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