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77 percent of IT experts surveyed are "worried" about smart grid cyber security

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, August 18, 2011

The federal government has moved to encourage utilities and other power providers in the U.S. to aggressively upgrade their power supply networks. Many of the country's critical infrastructure is in dire need of repairs and development, and while officials have long touted the smart grid's ability to increase the electric grid's effectiveness, concerns remain regarding the implementation of improved smart grid cyber security measures.

According to a survey conducted by nCircle, which is one of the country's largest cyber security firms, many information technology (IT) professionals are increasingly concerned about the seemingly lack of critical infrastructure protection (CIP) mandates.

The Obama Administration called for improved smart grid cyber security guidelines in a report it released earlier in the summer, but many government agencies have been at odds over who, exactly, is supposed to develop, introduce, implement and enforce such regulations.

The nCircle survey of 544 IT experts found that a vast majority of the nation's cyber security experts are exceedingly worried about the dearth of proper regulations currently in place. When asked "Are you concerned about smart grid cyber security?" 77 percent of those surveyed answered "yes," according to the company.

The survey serves to underscore the growing need for additional smart grid cyber security guidelines, experts say. The country's current computer defense systems are woefully outdated in many instances, and foreign governments - as well as rogue hackers - have successfully infiltrated a number of high-profile organizations since the beginning of the year.

As cyber security infiltrations become increasingly popular, government officials have sounded warning bells for the need for improved computer defense measures, but thus far, there has been little done to solve the problem, industry analysts assert.

What's more, as the Stuxnet worm demonstrated when it took out more than 20 percent of the computers tasked with running Iran's sanctioned nuclear power program, hackers are becoming exceedingly clever in how they engineer and deploy malware and other computer viruses.

"It's not surprising that the majority of respondents is concerned," nCircle director of product management Tim Erlin said in a statement. "The smart grid initiative involves aggressive deployment of a network device - in this case a smart meter - to nearly every household in America. That's quite a target surface for a Stuxnet-type attack.

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