Friday, April 29, 2011

Wake Up Call for Water, Gas & Electric Utilities

A wake-up call for public utilities across America and around the world should spur immediate action, but hasn’t.

A survey of 200 IT executives in charge of security at electric, oil, gas and water utilities in 14 countries, including the U.S. found 80-percent had already experienced some form of “denial of service” threats or attacks.

A report of findings, “In the Dark: Crucial Industries Confront Cyber Attacks” was unveiled April 21. It was commissioned by McAfee and prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

About 70-percent of respondents confirmed they had found malware in their systems intended to sabotage their operations.

These utilities “all acknowledged being more worried, but they didn’t say they had done a lot more,” according to Stewart Baker, the lead CSIS researcher.

Almost 80-percent said their utilities had been targeted by at least one significant “denial of service” attack and 85-percent reported at least one network intrusion.

In spite of this alarming news, a third of the utility executives admitted they are not prepared and more than 40-percent conceded they expect an assault on their infrastructure within the next 12-months. The attacks, they say, could cause a loss of service for a day or more and possibly result in loss of life or personal injury.

Another recent study by the Ponemon Institute confirmed that electric, gas and water utility executives were more concerned about system glitches, downtown and regulatory and legal compliance than the safety and security of their operating and delivery systems.

What does this mean to you?

If you are a utility manager, systems manager, communications manager, or customer relations manager , you should be working to prevent the kinds of things the report highlights, AND you should be creating or updating your various functions’ crisis plans – operations, communications, continuity and recovery plans.

Don’t end up standing in front of the cameras with a bewildered look on your face and unable to explain why you can’t deliver safe water, or dependable gas or electric service or even when you will be able to restore service to your service area.

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