Foreign hackers target UK Power Grid every minute

Pierluigi Paganini January 11, 2015

The British Parliament reveals that UK Power Grid is under cyber attack from foreign hackers every minute, but the emergency is for infrastructure worldwide.

UK Power Grid is targeted by hackers every minute according to James Arbuthnot, a member of parliament who chaired the Defense Select Committee until last year.

As reported by Bloomberg, Arbuthnot plans to visit National Grid Plc (NG/) next month to discuss the issue.

Arbuthnot confirmed the incessant attacks on national critical infrastructure and he doesn’t exclude a major incident despite the enormous effort spent at the National Grid.

“Our National Grid is coming under cyber-attack not just day-by-day but minute-by-minute,” Arbuthnot, whose committee scrutinized the country’s security policy, told a conference in London last year. “There are, at National Grid, people of very high quality who recognize the risks that these attacks pose, and who are fighting them off,” he said, “but we can’t expect them to win forever.”

State-sponsored hackers, cyber terrorists are the main threat actors, but as confirmed by a recent research conducted by TrendMicro, also the cybercrime represents a serious menace.

UK grid

The level of alert is high due to the large number of cyber attacks that are duly observed against the Britain’s electricity transmission network. The UK Government is aware of the cyber threats and it is assigning the necessary resources to mitigate them, the Cabinet Office recently announced it is increasing spending on its cyber-security program to 860 million pounds ($1.3 billion).

The investment is significant, it is increased by approximately 32 percent compared to the amount (650 million pounds) allocated in the 2011.

Despite the Home Office, the government department that oversees the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agencies, declined to comment the report it is known that the British intelligence agency GCHQ will be expanding a program to share cyber-crime intelligence in the coming year. The Cabinet Office said in a briefing on the third anniversary of its cyber-security strategy in London.

The initiative was announced by the Cabinet Office in a briefing on the third anniversary of national cyber-security strategy in London.

The impact of a cyber attack could have serious repercussions on every industry, the recent attack on Sony Pictures demonstrates, for example, that a hacking campaign could have serious economic and political impact.

“An attack on the grid would be uniquely destructive since the economy would cease to function without it, Arbuthnot said.” reports Bloomberg.

Not only UK grid are under attack, critical infrastructure of every country are exposed to serious risks.

The US grid was successfully hacked in November by hackers belonging to foreign governments. Despite the attribution of the attacks is very difficult, security experts believe that Russia, Iran and China were behind the successfully breach.

One of the main problem related to the protection of critical infrastructure is the increasing technology introduced in these environments that is enlarging their surface of attack. Let’s image to the huge quantity of Internet of Things devices (i.e. Solar panels and smart meters) used to monitor the processes and that could be easily hacked by foreign intelligence.

“The energy grid today is vulnerable from all degrees,” Slava Borilin, critical infrastructure business manager at Kaspersky, said in an e-mail. “Its electricity production is under threat of interruption and down-time from breaches of industrial control systems.”

Until today, cyber operation against UK and US Grid were mainly cyber espionage campaigns, but we must be aware that the attackers are collecting information for successive sabotage incursions.

“Espionage is in many cases just a preparation stage for sabotage,” Borilin added. “The high rate of advanced persistent threats found in all infrastructure sectors will lead more and more to their conversion into destructive weapons — a trend we’re seeing already.”

One of the most important initiatives to protect the critical infrastructure is the sharing of information and details related to the cyber attacks that targeted them.

The prevention of major incident requests a joint effort of Intelligence agencies and experts of the industry, there is no time to waste.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  critical infrastructure, intelligence, Power Grid)

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