In recent months the threat of cyber attack on the nation’s electricity system has come into urgent focus. Earlier this year the FBI and Department of Homeland Security made public a series of cyberattacks that penetrated the control systems of several nuclear power stations. Another recent attack on a network of natural gas pipelines threatened fuel supply to gas-fired power plants in the eastern United States. And both breaches came in the wake of a 2015 cyberattack on three Ukrainian electric utilities that left more than 200,000 people without power.
Yet even as awareness of cyber threats has risen, vulnerability to such attacks continues to grow. At the distribution level, behind the meter technologies like rooftop solar, battery storage, and demand response make the electric system more efficient, but also provide attackers with new points of entry into an electric system that was, by and large, built without cyberthreats in mind.
Cybersecurity experts Bill Hederman and Steve Kunsman discuss the vulnerabilities of the electric distribution system, and political and technological means of addressing cyber risk.