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Security upgrades urged for "vulnerable" smart grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The U.S. smart grid isn't equipped to handle a sophisticated attack on its infrastructure, especially as the incidence of cyber attacks has surged over the past decade, according to a spate of recently released studies.

A report, released by Pike Research, concludes that the precipitous growth the smart grid has witnessed over the past few years has left it exceedingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Many IT professionals are unaware of the steps that must be taken to ensure the grid is properly protected, the report states. Instead, they often employ the same countermeasures used to protect networks and industrial control systems, leaving the nation's energy supply vulnerable.

Illustrating the growing threat of cyber attacks on the smart grid, the Wall Street Journal affirmed that the U.S. is regularly hit by a barrage of cyber attacks from more than 100 countries every single day. The news publication cited a senior administration official who said President Obama has "designated cyber security as a critical national asset." Moreover, a report from McAfee and CSIS showed that there has been a "dramatic increase" in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure like the smart grid.

Moreover, McAfee's report also found that a majority of smart grid workers are unaware of the dangers cyber attacks could pose to the electrical grid. "Ninety to 95 percent of the people working on the smart grid are not concerned about security and only see it as a last box they have to check," former U.S. director of the Central Intelligence Agency Jim Woolsey affirmed.

With the U.S. and Europe lagging behind China and Japan in their adoption of smart grid security measures, a growing number of industry watchers have urged smart grid operators to implement further security measures.

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