Report: Smart Grid and Critical Infrastructure Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

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Spending on critical infrastructure security set to increase by 62% between 2010 and 2011. (Photo: Robert Linder)
Spending on critical infrastructure security set to increase by 62% between 2010 and 2011. (Photo: Robert Linder)


  • Critical infrastructure industries face highest risk of cyber attack
  • Report shows Stuxnet malware detected on around half of critical infrastructure systems surveyed
  • Global cyber security spending will top $1.3 billion in 2015

Smart grid networks are said to be the energy solution of the future. When the technology is perfected, it promises to save both money and energy, and the earth itself will be thankful. On the surface, there are no drawbacks. But so eager were governments and energy companies to get smart grid networks up and running that little attention was paid to security.

A report from Internet security company McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says that critical infrastructure industries - like smart grids,  oil and gas, and water installations - are the most vulnerable to cyber attacks.

40% of IT Execs Believe Their Companies At Risk

Around 40% of IT executives at critical infrastructure firms believe their companies are at increased risk of security breach because of a lack of protection.

The report says that an elaborate malware program called Stuxnet, designed to disrupt IT infrastructure, was detected on around half of the critical infrastructure systems surveyed. "We are learning that the smart grid is not so smart," said Dr. Phyllis Schneck, vice president and chief technology officer at McAfee.

"The fact is that most critical infrastructure systems are not designed with cyber security in mind, and organizations need to implement stronger network controls to avoid being vulnerable to cyber attacks.”

According to a report by cleantech market intelligence group Pike Research, there is a common misconception that security requirements for industrial control infrastructure are more or less the same as for IT networks. But cyber security for smart grid infrastructure requires much more sophisticated measures.

However, the report says that investment in smart grid cyber security is now being taken more seriously. Security budgets for critical infrastructure will increase by 62% between 2010 and 2011. By 2015, spending in the global cyber security market will top $1.3 billion.

Key Players – Smart Grid Security

  • Accenture, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, EnerNex, GE Energy, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Itron, OSIsoft, Seimens

Key Players – Smart Grid Leaders

  • ABB Limited (Switzerland), AREVA T&D (France), BPL Global (US), Duke Energy Corporation (US), EnerNOC (US), General Electric Company (US), GRLITZ AG (Germany), GridPoint (US), Landis+Gyr AG (Switzerland), Itron (US), Siemens AG (Germany), SmartSynch (US), SP AusNet (Australia), Trilliant Networks (US), Xcel Energy (US)

Key Statistics – Global Smart Grid Industry

  • The global smart grids market could reach almost $187 billion by 2015, according to a report by market research company Global Industry Analysts (GIA).

By James Mulholland for
James Mulholland is a Paris-based internet and broadcast journalist specializing in sports, current affairs and technology news, while also freelancing as a photographer.

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