More than three-quarters of IT professionals are concerned with the United States’ smart grid and officials’ ability to keep it safe from cyberattacks and other threats, a new study found.
The study, published by data compliance solutions provider nCircle, noted that smart grid data security, which protects the nation’s smart meters and power plant control systems, among other things, is becoming an increasingly troubling issue for IT professionals in the industry.
In a survey of 544 IT security professionals, 77 percent said smart grid cybersecurity is a concern, as a cyberattack or virus could result in significant damages to the Unites States’ infrastructure.
“It’s not surprising that the majority of respondents is concerned. The smart grid initiative involves aggressive deployment of a network device – in this case a smart meter – to nearly every household in America,” said nCircle director of product management Tim Erlin in a release. “That’s quite a target surface for a Stuxnet-type attack.”
The smart grid has a different meaning depending on where it is being employed. In the United States, the term refers to the modernization of the nation’s electricity infrastructure, including distribution and transmission channels, through technological advancements. Smart meters, for example, are digital devices that record electricity consumption and share that information with a central system, often for data analysis.
But, like any relatively new technology, the utilization of smart grid technology presents new data security challenges with which IT professionals must contend.
One state that’s taking initiative to protect its smart grid is California, which has been an early adopter of the infrastructure. The state’s Public Utilities Commission recently proposed a ruling that puts pressure on utility companies to improve security both on their internal and consumer-facing networks. The ruling also established consumer privacy standards regarding the smart reader infrastructure that, according to an IDC report, are in line with guidelines by the Fair Information Principle and the Department of Homeland Security.
According to IDC, the utilities the new ruling affects – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas – will be closely monitored by the commission to ensure security and privacy standards are met and consumer information remains safe.
Other states may soon consider following California’s lead, as failure to take the steps necessary to protect the smart grid could result in hackers taking control of the nation’s electricity infrastructure, severely damaging the country’s ability to operate. In the event of cyber warfare, this could have devastating implications.