back to article Should you stay awake at night worrying about hackers on the grid?

The energy sector across multiple Western countries is under intensified assault by hackers. Security experts warn that industrial systems are wide open to potential exploit once hackers secure a foothold, the most difficult part of the hacking process, using targeted phishing or similar tactics. The UK's government lead cyber …

  1. lee harvey osmond

    on the grid? not at my door?

    ... so are these the same hackers that are trying to abuse the smart meter I have diligently ensured will not be installed because I don't want people doing network-enabled f**kery with my domestic energy supply, only notionally facing 180deg the other way? Or different hackers entirely?

  2. DropBear Silver badge
    Trollface

    Bah, you don't use the front door, the internet is where they expect you to get in! I wonder can you get hundred-thousand-volts-HV-to-USB converters on the "dark web" yet, to hack directly into the control signals travelling between power stations...? At any rate, proper "air gapping" (of the right size!) would be literally a matter of life and death with a gizmo like that - maybe you could deploy your "connection leads" by drone...

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "are these the same hackers..trying to abuse the smart meter I have..ensured will not be installed

    No.

    These guys are after much bigger game.

    Shutting down whole sections of the power grid, or whole power plants, or both.

    They want to play Tetris with whole counties..

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      If you rapidly switch a whole bunch of stuff off and on again quickly, the local sub will probably give up. Most are only a dozen electric cars away from brown out anyway.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Register dissapoints now - every 'hackers are going to take down the power grid' article usually has an obligatory mention of CyberSquirrel1... when are we all going to wake up to the REAL threat to our power grid??

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "when are we all going to wake up to the REAL threat to our power grid??"

      Being that in most countries the grid is creaking due to inadequate investment?

      1. Ben Bonsall

        Seagulls with baguettes.

  5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Ready your bunker

    Human nature being what it is, nobody will give this the attention it deserves until a major incident happens.

    1. Jediben

      Re: Ready your bunker

      The DNO I work for are very aware of the risks and have made excellent steps toward ensuring staff are not caught out by phishing. SCADA replacement and reinforcement is already an active event on our risk register. User access and critical system management, as well as disaster recovery and business continuity are addressed proactively.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "as well as disaster recovery and business continuity are addressed proactively."

        And on the really big scale....

        I hope you can segment your section of the grid if it becomes necessary.

        But the really big one is wheather you're prepared to keep a stock of those big, high voltage transformers in storage.

        They are slow to make and normally mfg using large electric are furnaces, fed by the same kind of transformer, so a sufficiently serious event could clobber the supply chain for them as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ready your bunker

      " nobody will give this the attention it deserves"

      Fortunately, you are incorrect. However, knowing if it will be enough is a different kettle of fish.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
  6. sitta_europea

    The Register should check its facts:

    http://jeffreycarr.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/myth-of-cia-and-trans-siberian-pipeline.html

  7. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Energy sector under assault by hackers

    "The energy sector across multiple Western countries is under intensified assault by hackers. Security experts warn that industrial systems are wide open to potential exploit once hackers secure a foothold"

    Why don't these security experts connect their industrial systems to the Internet, through a VPN running on embedded hardware.

  8. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Ok so there are so many moving parts to the grid its nigh on imposible to take it down without making so much noise the authorities get wind. If you look at the uk disaster recovery plan for black start, ie total grid failure, the most likley cause is combined severe weather events. Also the grid would be down a maximum of 5 days, but industry say this is worst case and 3 is more likley. Plus statisticaly the squirrels!

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      "Cyber" (yes I know but that ship has sailed) doctrine is evolving with interesting parallels to the first 20 years of nuclear weapons.

      There's no point having the Bomb unless you've publicly demonstrated it.

      By the time a nation state decides it's time to take down an opposing country's entire power grid (properly, I mean, not for a couple of hours) attribution is pretty moot.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You think this is bad

    There was a plan fortunately busted, to attack the time references used for synchronizing grids.

    Ironically there are only a few of these even with backups, Rb/Cs sources are somewhat immune to jamming but the problem is all you need to do is disrupt a handful of the connections or knock them slowly out of sync in opposite directions (eg 0.2ms/day) and all hell breaks loose in about a week if the drift isn't compensated and also spoofed with GPS MITM hack.

    Also relevant: hacking relatively badly protected solar grid tied inverters to force a grid fail using a peak load dropout, in theory every single one going out at the same time in say .CA might be enough.

    Think unpredicted eclipse.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/08/07/solar_power_flaw/

    (deleted link to timing hack, don't want to get Gitmo'd)

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