Gaps in U.S. grid security, report finds


Congressmen Ed
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 29, 2013 – The United States’ electric grid remains highly vulnerable to attacks from Iran and North Korea, and other threats like geomagnetic storms from solar activity, according to a new report from congressmen Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Henry A. Waxman of California.

Further, this indicates that the lengthy, industry-driven process by which grid security standards are set results in long delays and haphazard implementation of the voluntary security recommendations the industry refuses to make mandatory.

The report, Electric Grid Vulnerability:  Industry Responses Reveal Security Gaps, is based on questions addressed by the congressmen to than 150 utilities on issues including how often the grid came under attack, and what measures the utilities were taking to protect against cyber attacks like the Stuxnet computer worm, among others.

Top findings of the report include:

  • The electric grid is the target of numerous and daily cyber attacks. One utility said there were 10,000 attempted attacks each month, and others described the level of potential incursions as “daily”, “constant”, “malicious” and “seeking to gain access to internal systems.” However, no  utility reported damage to any of its cyber assets, and also there did not appear to be a uniform process for reporting attempted cyber-attacks to the authorities.
  • Most utilities comply with mandatory standards but not additional voluntary ones, and do so unevenly. For example, while almost all utilities said they complied with mandatory Stuxnet standards, only 21 percent of investor-owned utilities, 44 percent of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities and 62.5 percent of federal entities reported compliance with voluntary Stuxnet recommendations that industry did not agree to mandate.
  • Most utilities have not taken concrete steps to reduce the vulnerability of the grid to geomagnetic storms, and it is unclear whether the number of available spare transformers is adequate.

“National security experts say that cyber attacks on America’s electric grid top the target list for terrorists and rogue states, yet we remain highly vulnerable to attacks,” said Rep. Markey, who is also a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We need to push electric utilities to enlist all of the measures they can now, and push for stronger standards in Congress that will keep our economy and our country safe from cyber warfare.”