Cybersecurity need is growing, Los Alamos director says

A full 40 percent of cyber attacks reported to the Department of Homeland Security are targeting the electric utility industry, said Dr. Charles McMillan, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, speaking about cybersecurity at the 2013 Deloitte Energy Conference.

According to McMillan, cyber attacks, currently a serious threat to the American energy system, are set to become only more substantial in the coming years.

 “Another area that I’d like to treat as an example is the security issues associated with our critical infrastructure,” McMillan said. “To just give you as sense of scale, in the time that it took me to say the last sentence my external firewalls at Los Alamos were challenged hundreds of times.” McMillan noted that, while he could say with high confidence that most of those attacks would be repelled, “I can’t say we will repel those attacks with complete confidence.”

To address the threat, Los Alamos has been working with the University of Illinois to use quantum encryption to encrypt control signals in the power grid.

The good news is I can say with high confidence we will repel most of those attacks, I can’t say we will repel those attacks with complete confidence. The only viable response to the challenge from cyber attacks, however, is innovation.

“I look forward to some of the questions that I believe we are going to have to address within our energy systems,” McMillan said,” and I believe the issues of security and then ultimately encryption are going to become an even more important part of that.”

This story was originally published by Power Engineering online. It is republished with permission.

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Denver is an associate editor at Power Engineering. He received an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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