Irony: As U.S. upgrades to “smart” power grid the threat of cyber attack looms larger

Tuesday, November 03, 2015 by

( For years experts have been warning lawmakers in Washington to upgrade the nation’s power grid, as much of U.S. electrical infrastructure showed signs of wear and aging. Now that it’s happening, others are warning that it is at risk of another threat: Hackers.

The upgrading to a more interconnected “smart” power grid – a transmission and distribution system that is more efficient – is bringing with it new risks, as noted in a recent congressional hearing on the subject.

As reported by The Epoch Times:

To discuss the growing threat of cyberattacks to the nation’s electric grid and preventive measures the subcommittees on Energy and Research and Technology held a joint hearing titled Cybersecurity for Power Systems on … Oct. 21. The focus of this hearing was to examine how federal agencies and the Department of Energy national labs can work with industry to protect the security of the nation’s electric grid from cyberattack and physical attack.

“Small-scale cyber and physical attacks to our electric grid are estimated to occur every four days. And in over 300 cases of significant cyber and physical attacks since 2011, suspects have never been identified,” said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy in his opening statement.

In addition, others at the hearing also used the four-day estimate, which stems from an analysis of federal energy records.

Ranking Member Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., of the Subcommittee on Energy, said the energy sector was reporting more cyber attacks in less time than any other sector of the U.S. infrastructure.

“In just one month, PJM Interconnection, which coordinates electricity transactions in 13 states and D.C., experienced 4,090 documented cyber-attempts to attack their system. That’s more than five and half attacks on their electrical market system per hour,” she said.

“As the electric power industry modernizes to a more interconnected smart grid, the threat of a cybersecurity breach significantly increases in that sector,” said Subcommittee on Research and Technology Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.

Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), detailed a number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities throughout the government.

He said that earlier this year the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, testified that hackers from foreign governments were developing the capability to remotely access power grids, and that the threat would only escalate as networked operations become the norm.

“So far no physically reported cyberevents have resulted in an electricity outage in the United States. But the sophistication of attacks on industrial controls systems is increasing,” added Bonamici.

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