The Risk Of Cybercrime For The Distributed Grid

The energy sector is under threat. As well as the physical danger to the distributed grid, there is now a growing threat in cybercrime. More and more cybercriminals are finding sophisticated methods to disrupt energy grids. Using targeted attacks and phishing individuals, cybercriminals are able to disrupt and control grid systems and are exposing the vulnerability of both small and large networks.

In the rise of attacks on the distributed grid has been shown in the US, where the US grid was being attacked once every four days. This amounted to almost 100 cyber-attacks in a single year. This has meant the energy sector has sadly earned its place as one of the top three most attacked industries in the US.

The problem is not just in the US either, in the UK, 15% of cyber attacks were designed to hit the energy sector. In the UK, the distributed grid is the second-highest risk industry for cyber attacks. Should a breach occur, it could cost the UK economy up to £442 billion.

More and more breaches are occurring leading to many industry executives being increasingly concerned should a breach happen. An outage for even just a couple of days could disrupt life dramatically. From healthcare facilities to traffic lights, everyone would be affected by an outage in our increasingly connected world.

With only 6% of grid executive feeling confident about restoring a normal distributed grid after a cyber attack, what can the network do to feel safer?

The cybercrime risks for the distributed grid

Demand Response Systems

One of the main areas of concern for the distributed grid is through demand response systems. Many people are using demand response systems in their home to benefit their lives. Systems such as Hive, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home can all be helpful to consumers, but each brings their own security risk. Many utility companies are concerned about brands collecting the data from customers such as their energy usage and utilise this information to launch a sophisticated cyber attack.

As a growing concern, people want to make sure that the companies behind demand response systems are adequately securing the data and making sure that it is being collected and managed in a way that is not vulnerable to a cyber attack.

While home demand response systems may seem small in the grand scheme of a distributed grid, the potential threat could be catastrophic. Manipulating the unsecured data from a demand response system could mean someone may demand energy for the whole city. If utility companies listen to a demand when there is none, it may be able to burn out the entire system.

This potential threat is also prominent for renewable energy companies too as constraint notices sent to turbines could cause a total shutdown of energy. With this in mind, securing demand response systems on a small and large scale is essential.

The Smart Grid

The smart grid is undoubtedly helping businesses with its real-time analytics and data-driven efficiencies. Both providers and customers enjoy benefits from the smart grid as it helps to drive improvements, increase quality and ensure all efficiencies are considered. However, despite being increasing intelligent and intuitive, it does open the opportunity for increased risks.

As the smart grid has more communication capabilities, it may be vulnerable to more cyber attacks. Furthermore, the increasing use of electrical services, as well as the potential for multiple service providers, there is a great risk of vulnerabilities being identified.

While the technology is smart, it has its limitations. They often do not have transformer monitoring capabilities. This means that if a threat is imminent, it may not be able to indicate current or future failures.

Protecting the distributed grid from the risk of cybersecurity

Cyan Solutions are experts in the field of cybersecurity and work with many energy companies to increase protection and reduce the threat of potential data breaches and cybersecurity attacks. Using our plan, create, maintain strategy, we ensure that all bases are covered, and every aspect is considered from technology to third-parties.

One example has been our work with Toto Energy, a leading UK utility provider. The focus of the project was to enable fast growth and scalability. However, with growth comes considering the long-term plans for security and protection. The planning stage involved a detailed discussion of how a cloud platform could be used to scale the business quickly, but also provide the necessary security measures to keep the business and customer data safe.

From there, it was a proactive approach in getting set up quickly while still making sure there were functioning security systems in place. With successful implementation, we can maintain the systems and be proactive to any threats to security, with a strategic security plan in place.

If your utility company needs support to protect your business and customers from the growing risk of cybersecurity, have a chat with our experts and see how we can help.

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