Energy networks in catch-up mode on cyber security


Australia’s electricity networks are falling behind other industries and their peers in Europe and the US in their preparedness to counter cyber attacks just as the grid is becoming more vulnerable due to the addition of solar panels and batteries, experts say.

Utilities are well prepared in their corporate systems, having beefed up security around their billing and accounting systems but are still under-prepared when it comes to the security of their operational systems, said PwC’s power & utilities leader Mark Coughlin.

He said the search for efficiencies in technologies to reduce costs could have increased the risks, while the introduction of two-way flows of data between household equipment such as batteries and network companies also introduced a new vulnerability into the grid.

“It’s about making sure those vulnerabilities are protected against from whoever might want to show an interest,” Mr Coughlin said, adding that utilities were less well protected against cyber threats than many of those in the retail, banking and defence sector.

“Customer data is of particular interest to anyone from a teenage hacker to very mature activist groups, while power networks, power systems could be an obvious terrorist threat.”

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