US Smart Grid updates left system exposed to cyberattack

A rush by the US Energy Department to modernize the country’s power grid has left the system vulnerable to cyberattacks, the agency’s internal watchdog found.

The Washington Post reports that Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman found “shortcomings” in the cybersecurity plans of more than a third of the utility companies that got federal funding for “Smart Grid” projects — from incomplete strategies to prevent an attack to vague steps for stopping one if it started.

The agency got $3.5 billion in the 2009 stimulus package for “smart grid” projects.

Smart Grid means fewer outages and lower bills for consumers if they use less electricity during times of peak demand but the complex computer systems have caused concern about cyberattacks by hackers looking to grab personal information from utility accounts — or even shut down America’s power grid.

Energy officials, responding to auditors, pledged to address the weaknesses by bringing in more experts to review the cybersecurity plans and make changes.

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