Isis electricity grid hack
According to AGCS, cyber risk is a major and fast-growing threat to businesses with cyber-crime alone costing the global economy approximately US$445 bn a year

Boss of German utility Stadtwerke Ettlingen has told Reuters that he believes the threat of cyber attacks on energy companies is “being underestimated outside of the industry”.

In an interview with the news agency, managing director Eberhard Oehler said that a simulated attack on the utility had revealed how easy it would be to hack into the energy company’s network through its IT grid.

Felix Lindner, head of IT security company Recurity Labs, who conducted the cyber attack in November 2013, said he gained access to Stadtwerke Ettlingen’s control room and could have “switched off everything: power, water and gas” for the town of Ettlingen, home to 40,000 people in the south of Germany.

Mr Oehler said: “The experiment has shown that sensitive, critical infrastructure is not sufficiently protected.”

As more components of an energy company’s infrastructure come online, including smart meters, concerns are increasing about the vulnerability of hackers tapping into customer and utility data.

However, RWE, one of Germany’s biggest utilities, which has completed a smart meter pilot project, commented that: “The transmission of client data to companies for billing purposes is subject to coding techniques and will at least reach the security level seen in online banking, if not surpass it.”

Smart meter rollouts?

The comments from Oehler come as Germany remains uncommitted to the European Union-wide rollout of smart meters by 2020.

Along with seven other member states of the EU, Germany found the cost-benefit analysis of installing smart meters to be negative, although the country’s research did believe they were economically justified for particular groups of customers.

Favouring smart grids

Germany has preferred to invest in smart grid technology with 135 initiatives undertaken since 2002.