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Move to smart grid presents cyber threats

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A recent New York Times article discussed smart grid technologies and relayed that as more utilities move to such a grid, the potential for cyber threats increases.

As an example, the article references an instance last year when an unauthorized user attempted to access the Lower Colorado River Authority's power generation network roughly 4,800 times through high-speed log-in attempts. The attempt, according a cybersecurity analyst, was actually relatively amateurish, presenting the scary possibility of more mature threats in the future.

As more companies adopt smart grid technologies, the possibility for greater attacks arise, said David Bonvillain, vice president at Accuvant LABS.

"There are known vulnerabilities, and there are vulnerabilities that haven't been discovered yet," said the expert.

While the potential for accessing a smart grid is less than a cyber hacker assessing a financial organization's data, the consequences are far greater, Bonvillain stated. The Stuxnet virus, which was probably targeted at the Siemens control systems in Iranian nuclear enrichment centrifuges, represents one of the most advanced applications of cyberwarfare against hard targets to date. That incident illustrated the need for more advanced infrastructure cybersecurity.

"The smart grid will make technology management a core part of what any utility is," stated Bonvillan. 

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