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The safety of Ukraine’s power industry has become a matter for serious discussion as the Russian troops push deeper into the East European country, attacking civilians and shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and threat actors hack and take down government websites in waves of cyberattacks.

The warfare has heightened frictions between Russia and the NATO alliance, uncovering weaknesses in the cybersecurity of international electricity supplies.

First Attacks

In 2015, cybercriminals reportedly supported by the Russian government hacked Ukraine’s power network, incapacitating control systems and causing widespread blackouts in the capital, Kyiv, and the country’s western regions.

It was the first time a cyberattack on a power network had been publicly confirmed. Since then, similar cyberattacks have occurred all over the world.

Last year, Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline operator in the U.S. that carries refined gasoline and jet fuel from Texas to New York, was forced to shut down after being hit by ransomware in a clear demonstration of the vulnerability of energy infrastructure to this type of cyberattacks.

In an effort to contain the breach, the company had to shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which carries 45% of the East Coast’s fuel supplies.

According to a 2020 report by management consulting firm McKinsey, attacks on energy systems can occur at any stage of the supply chain. Energy is frequently generated in aging infrastructure that was not developed with cybersecurity in mind. Physical security vulnerabilities in transmission and distribution lines may grant permission to grid control systems.

Don Smith, an expert in environmental law at the University of Denver in Colorado, who has studied online security in the energy industry, stated:

There are thousands of ways that hackers could get into individual energy companies or transmission and distribution systems.

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Serious Consequences

In addition to disrupting operations and causing outages, cyberattacks can also result in physical damage to equipment and infrastructure that lasts long after the attack has ended.

If you have a generator explode or a turbine basically spin out of control and rip itself apart… you’ve got to replace it. And we’re talking about often custom-built equipment that takes weeks, if not months, to replace.

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Renewable Energy Sources More Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

Indeed, since renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms depend on the internet more than conventional fossil fuel amenities, they are more susceptible to cyber threats.

Renewable energy sources are dispersed across larger areas and systems, unlike fossil fuel power plants, which are centralized. In the event of an attack, this can be advantageous because a successful strike may only remove a portion of the power. However, it also reveals more weak spots.

What Can Govs. Do to Secure Their Critical Energy Infrastructure?

Researchers have warned that as the world’s largest economies progressively transition to renewable energy, they lack unified strategies to keep their electricity grids away from cyber threats.

Because energy infrastructure is growing increasingly sophisticated and hackers are constantly finding new ways to gain access to infrastructure, there is no single blueprint for digital security.

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However, in order to stay safe, specialists say that:

  • Businesses should employ cybersecurity managers who are in charge of keeping up with technological developments and investigating systems for vulnerabilities;
  • Governments could impose minimum standards and guidelines for utility companies and mandate constant monitoring;
  • Energy company’s employees should change their passwords on a regular basis and scan their machines for malware.

How Can Heimdal™ Help?

While network threat prevention is a more traditional approach, it is still necessary nowadays. Our Heimdal Threat Prevention – Network is a revolutionary DNS filter that adds HIPS/HIDS capabilities to your corporate system, stopping cyber attackers in the tracks. Its AI-driven neural network does not only detect but also predicts advanced threats. Therefore, you won’t be taken by surprise when a new malware strain appears and tries to infect your enterprise.

In addition, securing the company network must be accompanied by proper endpoint threat prevention to ensure that you have all your bases covered. Our Heimdal Threat Prevention – Endpoint module comes in completion to its network counterpart, filtering traffic on your company endpoints at the level of the DNS, HTTP, and HTTPS.

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