As the internet of things allows utilities to digitalise their networks, cyber criminals are increasingly looking to target the assets and data that relates to our critical infrastructure. In 2017, utilities need to ask the question: are we prepared for the wave of criminal activity surging towards the industry?

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Threat Report 2016 found that in the past financial year, the energy sector was the most targeted by cyber criminals – of 14,804 cyber security incidents, a massive 18 per cent were targeting the energy industry.

Of the 14,804 incidents, 418 involved systems of national interest and critical infrastructure.

These are sobering statistics, and ones the utility industry needs to pay serious attention to.

Experts agree that Australian networks – such as those of utilities – that hold large amounts of personally identifiable information will continue be targeted by cyber adversaries.

Cyber attacks that target utility equipment and systems can also cause long, expensive delays, due to high industry equipment customisation and longer-than-average lead times.

As utility infrastructure becomes increasingly interconnected and dependence on the grid rises, attacks on the sector could result in widespread damage to the Australian population.

According to the ACSC, when it comes to cyber security, “prevention is better than a cure”, and they recommend companies take appropriate preparation, including identifying, monitoring, maintaining critical systems and processes.

It’s also important that utilities have systems in place for swift response in the event of cyber attack, such a lists for emergency personnel or mechanisms to identify affected parts of the network.

The ACSC also recommends that utilities reflect on how much personal information they actually need to collect, the systems that are in place to protect it, with whom it is shared, and expectations on the staff who manage the information.

The threats that utilities will face when it comes to cyber crime are a frightening prospect – but they don’t have to be debilitating. There are many strategies, techniques and technologies that utilities can employ to protect their networks, and keep their customers and assets safe from hackers.

Secure Utilities, being held at the Rendezvous Hotel in Melbourne on March 23, will explore the threats utilities face when it comes to cybercrime – but most importantly, we’ll be providing you with the solutions that will help ensure your utility is protected from attack.

For more information, and to register to attend, head to www.utilityevents.com.au or contact organisers Monkey Media on 03 9988 4950. 

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