Energy infrastructure—the battle with cyber-warfare

Cyber-warfare is blasting America's energy infrastructure, signaling the end for huge population centres if big attacks hit.

The Energy Department's Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Centre report indicates a steady onslaught of assaults on the nation's important infrastructure and energy laboratories. As discovered by USA Today, 1,131 attacks occurred with 159 of them being successful during a four-year period up to 2014.

Knocking out power can cost billions of US dollars in damages and lost opportunities and also poses a threat to national security. Any person, or foreign adversary, that pierces such hardened technology is capable of weakening a country and diminishing the confidences required to guide an economy.

“There are some cases where malicious operations could result in power outages,” said Larsh Johnson, chief technical officer at Siemens Smart Grid.

Since the gird is now connected to the outside world via the internet, it has become subject to continual attacks. Outsiders are breaking in via unsuspecting workers who download malware and spyware that invade control systems resulting, in some cases, from taking proprietary information to killing the power.

Grid operations are protected by frequent password changes and recurring patches to firewalls and upgrades. “It is important to understand that security is a process and will never be completely resolved,” said Utilities Telecom Council cyber-security strategist Nadya Bartol.