By Marvin T. Griff
A computer storing operating cost data for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc., power network extending from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast was compromised this summer. Within the past two years, sophisticated cyber-attacks, whose colorful names “Dragonfly” and “Energetic Bear” belie their disruptive capability, gained access to U.S. and European power networks. These and other recent cyber intrusions highlight the persistent risk confronting the U.S. electricity grid.
The source of a breach to the electricity system is often closer than one might think. A survey of global IT and IT security executives in the energy industry released by Unisys this summer reveals a majority of companies have had at least one security compromise in the past 12 months leading to the loss of confidential information or disruption of operations. Most survey respondents said the breach was likely caused by a negligent employee with privileged access and that their firms’ cybersecurity programs had limited ability to ward off attacks.