CA Utility on Attack Alert

Monday, March 25, 2013 @ 11:03 AM gHale


Utilities remain on alert at all times because of the potential harm one little cyber attack could cause, but California officials are especially on their toes these days.

The California Public Utilities Commission is now considering rules to bolster cyber-security protections to prevent potentially devastating attacks.

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The agency warned utilities were becoming vulnerable to cyber attacks as their networks add smart meters and other computerized gear. Many providers are reluctant to report they suffered an attack because they worry disclosure could expose them to liability.

Experts say a cyber attack against an electric utility could lead to massive power outages that shut down water and transportation, threaten the sick and elderly and cause billions of dollars in damage.

“We will see catastrophic outages,” James Sample, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s (PG&E) chief information security officer, warned state regulators at an energy company forum. “We are dealing with a very intelligent adversary.”

Although PG&E doesn’t believe hackers have caused major problems at the San Francisco-based utility, Sample said, “We’re seeing increased phishing-type attempts,” typically fake emails aimed at stealing information.

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported hackers were infiltrating “oil and natural gas pipelines and electric power organizations at an alarming rate.” The agency said it knew of 198 such “cyber-incidents” just last year.



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