City Electricity Supplies Held to Ransom by Cyber Hackers

May 09, 2013, 07:59 ET from World Review

VADUZ, Liechtenste, May 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and could bring entire cities to a halt. But the energy industry has been slow to recognise the risks, says energy expert Dr Frank Umbach who warns that extortion is a growing threat as criminals hold utility companies to ransom.

The impact of an attack directed at electricity companies would be far-reaching and could potentially disrupt or shut down 'all public and private services, including public finance, town halls, hospitals, public transport and others,' says World Review author Dr Umbach.

Individuals, organisations and business circles have failed to keep pace with the increasingly sophisticated development of cyber attacks. 'There is a gap between the level of cyber security expertise of those who operate traditional electricity grids and those who run secure modern cyber grids,' he says.

Cyber terrorism is not an IT solution, adds Dr Umbach. 'If networks are to be protected, a broad range of comprehensive management and embedded protection solutions in new security models will need to address the specific challenges of industrial control systems.'

Added to the threat of outage is extortion which is now a more prevalent cyber threat to the global energy sector than espionage and sabotage as criminals gain access to the systems of utility companies and demand ransoms to avoid causing damage.

'The amount of ransom has climbed to hundreds of millions of dollars. Extortion attempts account for 80 per cent of all cyber attacks in Mexico and 60 per cent in India,' he says.

Other major cyber risks are the introduction of a wide range of new smart grid and smart meter technologies. Advanced smart metering infrastructure and a meter data management system are the basic components of the smart grid power system.

'Deploying more robust cyber security to protect physical operations and the data associated with its operations, based on a complete security reassessment, is one of the most challenging aspects of deploying smart grid and smart metering technologies,' he says.

Click here to read the full World Review report

About the author

World Review author Dr Frank Umbach is a Senior Associate and Head of the Programme 'International Energy Security' at the Centre for European Security Strategies (CESS) GmbH, Munich-Berlin and Associate Director of the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) at King's College, London. He is also a consultant on international energy security and security policies as well as the Asia-Pacific region.


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