What Makes the Smart Grid Special, Makes it Vulnerable

By John Wagley
The development of smart grid technology seems to hold multiple benefits, ranging from more efficient power usage to lower utility costs. But as the U.S. and other countries ramp up adoption of the technology, which aims to intelligently connect electrical utilities and consumers via the Internet and other technology, many see looming danger.
The interconnected nature of the grid could make it far more vulnerable to attacks. An example of the type of threat that critical infrastructure sectors could face occurred last year with the discovery of the Stuxnet worm. Highly sophisticated and able to manipulate certain industrial control systems made by Siemens, the worm has infected more than 44,000 systems worldwide, according to a recent Symantec report. One of the biggest concerns is that others might use Stuxnet-like programs for similar attacks, said William Hunteman, senior advisor for cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Energy, when he spoke as one of a panel on cyber threats and infrastructure at a recent Washington, D.C., conference.
Another reason that utilities are pursuing a means to better grid security is that utilities must submit security plans to obtain federal funds allocated for smart grid development. There is currently little security standardization across the large, diverse utility industry. But there are common steps utility companies can take now.
(To continue reading "Securing the Smart Grid" from this month's issue of Security Management, click here.)


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