Upgrade Coming to Grid Cybersecurity in U.S.

A December attack on Ukraine’s grid was a wake-up call

4 min read
Upgrade Coming to Grid Cybersecurity in U.S.
Photo: Arunas Klupsas/Getty Images

The hackers who unplugged 225,000 people from the Ukrainian electricity grid in December—the first confirmed cyber-takedown of a power system—have lent credence to calls by cybersecurity experts for greater vigilance by utilities. “It’s really brought the whole thing to a head and made people aware that this isn’t just chatter about the sky falling,” says Eric Byres, a security consultant who commercialized one of the first firewalls for industrial control systems.

Experts such as Byres say that what’s needed are active security measures that detect and thwart attacks, as opposed to what the utilities have been doing—simply trying to wall off their control systems. The same message is now coming from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), which sets binding standards for power grids in its region. NERC’s newly upgraded cybersecurity codes require network monitoring and other active defenses and begin to go into effect in July. Will they be enough to stop an attack like the one in Ukraine? It depends on how quickly and thoroughly utilities act, experts say.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

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