How do cybersecurity gaps threaten our electric infrastructure?

Cybersecurity threats to electric infrastructure continue to be a top-of-mind topic for many business executives. From healthcare and data center facilities to commercial and industrial buildings, businesses depend on electric power to continue their operations. Moreover, this dependence has been further amplified with the greater adoption of connectivity and increased interdependence of sub-systems and processes within a facility or business.

Cybersecurity gaps
Professor Alan Woodward, an internationally renowned computer security expert, offered his perspective on this. Alan has particular expertise and current research interests in cyber security, covert communications, forensic computing and image processing. Alan is currently a Visiting Professor at Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, University of Surrey.

Alan notes that there is more computing power in embedded systems today than is used on desktop computers, yet it goes largely untended. As soon as any system is made “intelligent” it becomes a target for hackers. Being embedded and untended, these systems go on for years without the upgrades that are necessary to keep them secure.

Moreover, remote monitoring has moved from private networks to using the internet as the means for communications. Put these together and you have a target that is at high risk of remote attack. 

Anyone looking after systems that have any embedded computing power needs to manage that computing infrastructure just as if it were in a data center hosting thousands of websites. It is even more difficult in infrastructure, as some vendors don’t always keep their software updated. We’ve seen examples of scanners in hospitals that could be upgraded to escape ransomware, yet the scanner manufacturer didn’t support the latest software. Anyone managing these devices needs to look at the horizon and think “what if.” 

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