The National Institute of Standards and Technology released a report in February identifying products available to enhance the electric grid’s cybersecurity. New technologies employed onto the grid are multiplying the number of access points for cyber threats.
An actual cyberattack on an electric grid occurred in December 2015 when Ukraine’s electricity was interrupted. A third party, widely suspected to be operating from Russia, conducted the attack — which resulted in 225,000 customers losing power.
It is only a matter of time until another country experiences a cyberattack that shuts down the power. If that occurs, devastating economic and security consequences may result since electricity is needed to operate pipelines, medical facilities, telecommunications, military bases and other critical infrastructure.
At present, consistent cybersecurity controls for the distribution system, where utilities deliver electricity to customers, are lacking. If a cyberattack on a utility successfully causes a power outage, a ripple effect that destabilizes electricity in large areas could occur, possibly damaging parts of the interconnected system. So it is easy to understand why research firm Zpryme estimates that U.S. utilities will spend $7.25 billion on grid cybersecurity by 2020.
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