Compared with other major industries, the electrical-power generation and distribution sector seems to be remarkably insulated from cyber threats. There has never been a major power outage in the U.S. that is traceable to a cyber attack. However, that day may be fast approaching, and there are indications that neither the grid’s operators nor its regulators will be ready. Hackers, especially state-sponsored ones, understand that if the electrical-power grid collapses, other critical networks will quickly follow. There are extensive vulnerabilities to cyber assault in the current grid architecture, and the introduction of new technology — internet-linked controls, meters and so on — will increase those vulnerabilities. To make matters worse, industry’s incentives to take action before an attack occurs are weak, because the necessary measures are costly and the danger is unclear. Also, the regulatory structure dictating security standards is relatively diffuse. It is probably just a matter of time before some bright hacking collective or Chinese cyber team figures all this out. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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