Recent cyberattacks call for increased security at energy utilities

Posted: July 27, 2018

Over the past year, numerous cyberattacks across the country have crippled major companies and affected thousands of consumers. Big name companies such as Equifax in July 2017 and even the city of Atlanta, Georgia in March 2018 fell victim to massive cyberattacks.

But hackers aren’t stopping at stealing consumer data. Studies have found that another vital industry has suffered small attacks and could be at risk for a nationwide cyberattack: our energy utilities.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefing on Monday reported that Russian hackers infiltrated U.S. electric utility control rooms across the country, where they could have disrupted power flows and caused blackouts, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The risk of a widespread cyberattack to the energy grid has been a threat for some time, though not all cybersecurity experts agree on the severity of these threats. However, former ABC anchor Ted Koppel points out in his book Lights Out that a well-processed cyberattack to one of the nation’s three electric power grids could wipe out much of our electricity infrastructure. And the United States has no plan for the aftermath of such an attack.

In May 2017, New York AREA published an issue brief on the risks of a grid-wide cyberattack and examines the security measures being taken in New York to protect the grid. Following the 2003 Blackout, for example, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) applied a “defense in depth” strategy to protect instate system assets.

NYISO’s initial strategy is a good start to securing our grid, but more initiatives need to be made across the country to protect our energy utilities from cyberattacks.

Read more about New York State’s initiatives to protect the instate grid at the link below:

Keeping New York’s Grid Safe From Cyberattacks