Cyber Criminals are Targeting you and Your Utility

I visited a relative in another state recently and was surprised to find that my debit card didn’t work at Target. I knew I had money in my account to cover the transaction, but because it was Sunday, I couldn’t call my bank. To expedite my checkout, I gave the cashier my credit card. It was declined, too.

On Monday I called my bank and credit card company to find out what was going on. I was told by both that the geographic area in which I attempted to use my cards was flagged as a “high-fraud” area. Because I don’t normally shop in that area, holds were put on my cards. I realize they did this to protect me, and I’m glad, but I was inconvenienced, embarrassed and a bit annoyed. To have someone hack into my checking account and clean me out, or go on a spending spree and max out my credit card, or both, would have been much worse, of course.

Cyber criminals are part of life. While they can create problems for individuals, their threat to utilities is much worse. This issue contains two articles on cybersecurity. They address cyberattacks that occur routinely at electric utilities, as well as the “big one” that could inflict major damage on all of us.

Utilities have ramped up and added more resources to prevent and intercept such attacks, but they need help. Much of that help could come from the government. (Yes, the government is here to help—really.) While clearer laws and regulations and, of course, money, could help, one of the biggest benefits could come from information sharing. The government has information about cyberthreats that if shared with electric utilities and other industries could help them better protect their infrastructures. That’s why EEI President Tom Kuhn issued a statement in a press release on July 30 praising the Senate Commerce Committee for its bipartisan passage of the Cybersecurity Act of 2013. The bill covers several issues, but its main focus is on public-private collaborations aimed at developing best practices and processes for protecting critical infrastructures from cyber threats and attacks.

Kuhn said the Act is a “bipartisan bill that acknowledges the important roles of industry and government to secure cyber assets, and respects the existing mandatory and enforceable cybersecurity standards that currently govern the electric and nuclear sectors.”

He also said it is “another step in fostering improved government-industry coordination to address the evolving cyber threats to critical infrastructure.”

Cyber criminals are smart and sophisticated and aren’t going away, which is why we cover the topic. In addition to articles, like those in this issue, we routinely cover cybersecurity on our website, and we plan to offer a cybersecurity webcast on Dec. 10. We’ve also created a new cybersecurity conference track for DistribuTECH in January. We are doing our best to keep you in the know.

alt   Editor in chief
TERESA HANSEN
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