Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

In an increasingly digital world how can power utilities avoid cyber attacks and other security breaches?

March 21, 2019


Andrew Longyear

Cisco’s Utilities Solutions Architect Andrew Longyear explains why a fresh approach to security is vital for protecting networks, safeguarding critical national infrastructure and ensuring a successful digital evolution for the industry.

It’s hard to believe that the internet is only 30 years old when the resulting shift to digital connectivity has not only been rapid but now permeates practically every aspect of our lives. As a nation, the UK has embraced digital more than almost any other country, with 91% of us already online. And this trend is set to continue; by 2022, it is forecast that there will be 10.6 networked devices per capita, up from 5.9 in 2017.

The power utilities and energy sector is no exception. In fact, utilities were implementing smart technology well before the Internet of Things (IoT) became a recognised concept. It’s estimated that the sector already has more intelligent devices in operation than any other industry and it must continue to embrace digital in order to cope with a myriad of priorities and challenges. From regulatory compliance to integrating new energy sources and consumption models, digitisation, integration, and connectivity will play a major role in improving grid efficiencies/resilience, balancing demand and supply, and delivering next generation services.

Greater connectivity, increased risk

On the flip side of course, digitisation, connectivity, and integration represent new challenges in terms of cyber security, data integrity, confidentiality and availability. Recent incidents indicate that cyber attacks will continue to rise, so investing in efficient, automated energy grids and security solutions that protect the industrial network and critical national infrastructure is essential.

Securing power utilities with PNDC

PNDC, Cumbernauld – home to the operational security test bed

As part of our commitment to supporting the industry’s long-term digital evolution, we’re working in close partnership with the Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC).

This includes designing and installing a state-of-the-art operational security testbed at PNDC in Cumbernauld, Glasgow, which covers the types of communication systems typically found at a power utilities network.

And we’ve embedded our cyber security solutions into its fabric, together with operational assets including RTUs, protection relays, and IED. This will allow us to test as many security scenarios as possible.

Save the date – join us to find out more

To find out more about this exciting and important initiative, why not join PNDC and Cisco at Cumbernauld on Thursday 2nd May, where a range of industry experts will come together to discuss operational security within the critical infrastructure. There will also be an overview of the security test-bed, rounding off with a workshop where we’ll discuss the topics covered during the day.

You can register for the event here.

Further reading

In the meantime, ahead of the day, you can learn more by downloading our new whitepaper, which:

  • explores in more detail why security is so critical for power utilities
  • outlines our approach to operational security
  • discusses the PNDC test bed facility
  • includes a brief overview of our security portfolio.

We’re committed to helping power utilities plan for a future based on digital transformation; to find out more about our energy, IoT and security solutions, visit our website.

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