The increasingly ‘ distributed ’ nature of the grid that is required to tackle climate change also increases the number of points of attack for hackers , writes Francis D ’ Souza
Between the melting homeland of polar bears , the increasing ferocity of wildfires and the more frequent inundations around the world , the impact of climate change triggered by greenhouse gas emissions has never been more evident .
This is an issue for all industry sectors and while the electricity and heating industry has made a lot of progress since 2013 when it contributed 30 % 1 of the energy industry greenhouse emissions , it still has a substantial way to go and is working hard at it .
DIGITALISATION , THE GRID AND CLIMATE CHANGE Making the grid ‘ smart ’ and ‘ connected ’ is key to tackling climate change . The electricity industry has been working across the board to play its part . In what has commonly come to be known as the energy transition , fossil fuels are being replaced by wind and solar renewables in the energy mix , consumers are given more knowledge and empowerment to manage their energy consumption and the grid is becoming more decentralised and distributed .
All this can only be achieved by digitalising the grid and connecting all assets using IoT technologies , in order to have a real time view of demand and supply , improve consumer interaction and control grid components in real time .
Without this digitalisation and IoT connectivity , the greening of the grid is hard , if not impossible to achieve . Yet , connecting assets increases the attack surface and thus the risk of cyberattack from anyone with bad intentions against the energy sector . The electricity grid , being the primary artery underpinning our economies , is at the front-line of the battle against cyberterrorism for economic and strategic gain .
The increasingly ‘ distributed ’ nature of the grid that is necessary to tackle climate change as explained earlier , increases the points of attack of a hacker . The good news is that this is a risk well known by national authorities and the electricity grid is classified among the critical national infrastructure of countries , with standards and specifications in place to guard against cyber hack scenarios .
One of the examples of this is the NIS Directive in Europe that covers critical sectors such as energy . Others include the US Cybersecurity Improvement Act ( 2017 ), European Union Agency for Network Information Security , ENISA , publications and recommendations .
COMBATTING CYBER THREAT The smart energy industry has put in place practices and technologies that combat this cyber threat .
In addition to implementing government regulations and mandates , the smart energy industry itself has implemented technologies and standards on cybersecurity that raise the bar for cyber hackers , keep the grid safe and ensure the privacy of consumer ’ s information and data . Implementing cybersecurity is about technology , but also best practice .
The underlying principles are simple :
• Security-by-Design : undertake a formal risk assessment at design phase and put in place mitigation plans
• Ensure separation of the ‘ application ’ software from the ‘ security ’ software
• Ensure all data exchange is encrypted • Ensure only trusted parties can access and securely update assets remotely
• Ensure security systems are regularly controlled and updated to the highest security standards
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