Cybersecurity a growing issue for utilities

Cybersecurity a growing issue for utilities The U.S. has seen a growing interest in cybersecurity even over the past year, with a number of high-profile cyber attacks occurring in 2011. Risk magazine reports that the country's electric power distribution system has become an important focus of these concerns. 

The potential consequences of a cyber attack on power infrastructure has already been demonstrated. In 2006, a glitch in a computer system forced the shutdown of a nuclear power plant, and the year after researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory demonstrated how a cyber attack could do physical damage to a generator. 

Meanwhile, the number of ways in which hackers can target utilities has steadily grown with the adoption of greater interconnection between power distribution systems. The implementation of smart grid technologies poses a particular danger, with the access points provided by new hardware. 

Experts explained to Risk that many utility companies still struggle to keep up with the cybersecurity field, since the industry tends to change slowly and many smaller companies face looser standards. 

Reuters reports that the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a new bill designed to limit such attacks, but largely manages this through stiffer penalties. 

Other potential impacts of the smart grid can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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