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NERC chief: "Right now security is definitely not integrated into the grid"

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, July 01, 2011

As the U.S. moves to update its power grid for the 21st century, there are increasing concerns about its vulnerability to cyber security attacks. A number of big contractors are beginning to develop technologies aimed at protecting the power supply network, according to a published report.

Bloomberg reports that large businesses like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and IBM are all beginning to allocate financing toward the development of smart grid cyber security programs. That, according to industry analysts, is a result of the industry's growth over the past few years as they peg the sector to be worth more than $1.3 billion.

The government has endeavored to spur additional cyber security protections for critical infrastructure operators. In January, a report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the smart grid is "vulnerable to attacks that could result in widespread loss of electrical services essential to maintaining our national economy and security."

Mark Weatherford, the security chief at the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), said recently that utilities that suffer cyber security breaches would likely face a customer backlash, making the need for such technologies more timely.

"Right now security is definitely not integrated into the grid," he said during a briefing in Washington D.C. last week. "Security is bolted on."

Utilities that do not meet cyber security standards developed by NERC could face penalties as high as $1 million per day.

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