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Energy Expert: Smart grid valuable but vulnerable

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, January 16, 2012

If smart electric grids hope to stay safe from potential hackers, they'll need the protection of highly advanced cyber security systems, an energy expert stated at a conference on Friday, January 13.

"A smart grid, by connecting the power industry to the internet, opens the door for anyone who wants to mess with the power system in the U.S.," said Dr. Stephen Holditch, a professor at the Texas A&M Energy Engineering Institute.

The Houston Chronicle reports that such intelligent technology has already been installed in hundreds of thousands of homes around the state. CenterPoint Energy, which distributes electricity to customers in the Houston metroplex regardless of the retail provider, has installed more than 100,000 units of smart devices in the area.

Smart meters, as the devices are called, use the internet and other information technology to monitor and control generation, delivery and consumption of electricity. Although they are expected to save the U.S. some $130 billion in the next 10 years, creating a bridge between the power grid and communications systems will likely engender several new access points from which hackers could enter the system, Holditch warned at the annual conference of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.

Utilities woke up to the dangers of cyber security threats in 2010 after the notorious Stuxnet virus proved that industrial software and equipment was vulnerable to computer worms. Since then, ensuring cyber security has become an end-to-end, architectural endeavor that must apply to all facets of communications and critical infrastructure.

To raise awareness of the issue, The Smart Grid Observer has announced it will conduct a "virtual summit" in February that will focus on the newest technologies, deployment methods and regulatory requirements used in keeping the burgeoning smart grid secure.

"Our objective is to bring together key industry thought leaders to help utilities think about cyber security within the context of an end-to-end smart grid ecosystem," says Daniel Coran, editor of The Smart Grid Observer. "The online format makes it convenient and cost-effective to attend from anywhere in the world."

Utilities looking for expert guidance on how to maintain strong cyber security standards across their substation network may benefit from the services of SUBNET Solutions Inc.

SUBNET offers solutions that help generation, transmission and distribution companies meet NERC CIP standards by utilizing existing assets and corporate IT policies, allowing utilities to continue using their established hardware and software. 

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