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Cybersecurity still a serious concern for utilities, report finds

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, December 20, 2012

A new infographic released by Zpryme shows the results of a survey of 213 utility and smart grid leaders, and demonstrates that these players still have a long way to go when it comes to beefing up security of their smart grid deployments.

The report found that 65 percent of executives at utility and smart grid companies expect increased investment in cybersecurity in 2013, and the area of business most at risk will likely be operations and informational technologies. As these two functions join together in the age of wireless communication and big data, they will become imperative for smart grid growth, but will also be ripe with vulnerabilities.

The 2012 Utility Cybersecurity Survey, released on December 14, provides further evidence that smart grid vendors must always keep the changing electrical grid framework in mind when designing new products. This includes designs for existing infrastructure as well as plans for future smart grid technology deployments that will also require ongoing maintenance. The report noted that it will be crucial for grid systems for critical applications to stand up to cybersecurity attacks without losing any critical functions.

The survey also showed the current state of cybersecurity among utilities may not be sufficient. When asked how secure the U.S. electric system is, only 4 percent said they thought it was "very secure," compared with the 43 pecent who said it was "somewhat secure" and the 39 percent who said it was "somewhat insecure." What's more troubling, 15 percent said they believe the U.S. electrical network is "very insecure," and an astounding 73 percent said the recent Cybersecurity Act of 2012 - which was shot down in the House of Representatives - would have been an essential piece of legislature for improving cybersecurity.

"The survey finding that cybersecurity has become a serious focal point by utilities is not a surprise – a synchronized public-private response to cybersecurity through new technologies is needed," explains Brett Luedde, Director of Global Energy Delivery Systems, ViaSat. "An important component to addressing a cyber attack is the utility's ability to detect and respond to an event in a timely manner."

SUBNET's products help utilities ensure strong cyber security by complying with NERC CIP standards. These rules were developed to protect the nation's most important infrastructure, including the power grid.

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