Girding the Grid: Protecting the Electricity Supply

  June 28, 2017

By Dan Hounsell

Electric grids worldwide are increasingly vulnerable to attack as new technologies like smart meters and analytical software are added to them, with mature systems like North America’s at particular risk, according to the World Energy Council.

Pressure to make older equipment in utilities, transformers, and transmission lines compatible with newer, more efficient Internet-connected equipment at the lowest possible cost has too often made security an afterthought, according to a recent report from MIT’s Center for International Studies. That creates juicy targets for hackers.

“For the sake of efficiencies … we have created tremendous risk for ourselves,” says Joel Brenner, the principal author of the MIT report.

Most utilities deal with two or three incidents a year that require investigation, but the probability of some kind of attack happening in a given year “is 100 percent,” says one manufacturer of power technology and products. About 30 percent of attacks are on the systems that operate the physical plants, whether it be switches or older on-site controls that may not be connected to central operations. That’s up from about 5 percent two years ago, Simonovich says.

Now, says MIT’s Brenner, people are waking up to the danger. President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order to speed coördination and enforcement for cybersecurity across agencies, including those that oversee the electric grid. The order builds on moves by the Obama and Bush administrations to better coördinate authority across state lines. One requirement: an assessment of the U.S. ability to withstand a major grid attack.

Read more at: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607856/patching-the-electric-grid

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell, editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com. To read more about the growing use of drones in facility maintenance, visit https://www.facilitiesnet.com/117022FMD.


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