US bulk electric system vulnerable to cyber-attacks – report

A new survey on cybersecurity and compliance revealed that 50% of utilities in North America are not compliant with NERC standards regarding substation maintenance.

The study carried out by smart grid systems integrator Bridge Energy further states that the utilities’ failure to address their baseline compliance needs, of their low impact substations, has left a significant risk to the US bulk power system.

According to the findings of the study ‘2016 Utility Industry Cybersecurity and Compliance Survey’, 57% of utilities’ CIOs are accountable for the grids’ cybersecurity issues.

[quote] Bridge Energy claims the survey aims to analyse developments within the utility industry in order to develop a roadmap to help utilities to strengthen their grid networks against cyber-attacks.

The report includes insights from over 20,000 energy professionals in North America surrounding  issues impacting utilities’ cybersecurity measures.

In addition, the study discusses methods used by utility companies to determine their readiness to comply with NERC requirements on grid security issues. [SGIP issues recommendations on utility cybersecurity projects].

Cybersecurity tech development in Europe

As half of North American utilities are reported to be vulnerable to cyber attacks, in Europe, the European Commission signed an agreement with the European Cybersecurity Organisation (ECSO) to boost the research and development in cybersecurity solutions.

Under the partnership, the EU commission said it will invest €450 million ($498.2m) under research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, while ECSO will invest €1,3 billion ($1.4bn) through to 2020.

The collaboration aims to increase public-private partnership for the development of the technologies to secure the energy, health, transport and finance infrastructure. [Cybersecurity to dominate EU utilities’ IT spend, says report].

The funds will be distributed to businesses, universities and researchers to implement cybersecurity measures in order to foster cooperation in the early stages of the research and innovation process.

Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the Digital Single Market, said: “Without trust and security, there can be no Digital Single Market. Europe has to be ready to tackle cyber-threats that are increasingly sophisticated and do not recognise borders. Today, we are proposing concrete measures to strengthen Europe’s resilience against such attacks and secure the capacity needed for building and expanding our digital economy.”


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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.