U.S. Electricity Grid Could Be Facing Imminent Threats
Cyber threats to targets that are traditionally exotic, like car interfaces or large electric grids, are becoming a source of concern for those with industry knowledge. As more and more industrial components become network-accessible, and software systems that run many of the nation's larger infrastructure become older and more vulnerable,
cyber threat intelligence and reaction capabilities will become more in demand. An attack on something like a power grid would do more than simply shut the lights off; it would trigger a cascade effect that would damage economic interests, destabilize critical city-state functions, and generally cause chaos to millions with a single assault. It is no wonder that groups looking to harm national interests have become interested in the evolving ways cyber-attacks can be deployed.
The U.S. Department of Energy certainly sees the vulnerabilities. They recently weighed in with the department's whopping 494-page
Quadrennial Energy Review which displayed both the critical national interests at risk, as well as some recommendations as to how they can be safeguarded. Among the 76 recommendations included are:
- An investment in our national energy grid to bring it up to modern standards, costing in the neighborhood of 350 to 500
- A more thorough system for cataloging and monitoring online attacks to power grids.
- Recommendations to build more nuclear reactors (funded with tax credits) that can serve as secondary power sources in the event of a shutdown of the aging national power grid as currently constructed.
Beyond what the U.S. government can do to safeguard and improve the protections to the electric grid, companies themselves must become more proactive. Attacks themselves have become more consistent, with one in
Ukraine in 2015 that was very instructive in the ways that a cyber-attack via power grid can completely paralyze a nation.
In the past, professionals in the field were the most concerned with physical attacks on infrastructure. Now, they see software and cyber attacks as an even larger threat given the amount of detriment and control a cyber takeover could yield a cyber criminal. Gaining access to computer networks connected to power grids can take the form of data breaches or viruses embedded in files that can lurk within company computers for years. Private corporations must secure their systems with thorough and nuanced cyber threat intelligence.
To do so, platforms of both sophistication and ease need to become ingrained in the industry ethos. Collaboration of
cyber threat intelligence is more necessary than ever. For more information on cyber threat intelligence sharing, read
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