With the digital age came the almost immediate challenge of preventing unauthorized and unsolicited access to the systems designed to enrich our lives, and holding so much information about us. Technical advances have brought the Energy industry into the online world, with systems designed to reduce energy use and wastage, analyze energy use, and ensure energy can be delivered without interruption to businesses and consumers worldwide. Naturally, this has attracted similar threats from hackers with ever more sinister reasons to seek access to the data being collected and the technology controlling the delivery of our energy and risks giving those individuals, if successful, the ability to entirely disrupt the even distribution of energy to end users.
Preventing and defending against cyber hacking has long been on the agenda of global governments. Now energy providers must ensure that they have equivalent preventative measures in place to identify and prevent threats against their own systems and the resulting chaotic impact on the businesses and everyday lives of their customers. As the SmartGrid infrastructure becomes increasingly widely used and relied upon to provide an intelligent way to collect, distribute and use energy from a number of increasingly diverse sources, the risk of a potential breach of that system becomes both more likely and more catastrophic. The challenges which exist in preventing that are examined in our recent article, which you can read here.
The energy industry has traditionally not been an early adopter of technological advances and in many countries the associated infrastructure is in desperate need of renewal. The historical risks of physical access to the energy system have been managed by physical barriers which prevent intruders from getting close enough to any part of that system to disrupt the confluence of energy. With SmartGrid, we know the physical barriers will not prevent the primary risks, and instead we need cutting-edge technological barriers to keep the inevitable and malevolent online attacks at bay. Customer confidence in the technology needs to be built, and that can only happen if privacy of the data collected can be guaranteed, and continuity of the energy flows can be assured. That may take time to consolidate, but will be easily destroyed by one high profile system breach. As with changes in any long established industry, it will take time, and success, before customers willingly integrate all aspects of SmartGrid into their everyday lives.
It is beyond doubt that the changes to the energy market have created a wealth of opportunities. As the industry becomes increasingly reliant on technology to enhance and defend energy use by millions of consumers worldwide, so new and innovative ideas develop around it to calculate, analyze, monitor, protect and defend the system itself. Each of these brings its own challenges to the table, and developing the necessary products and services within a highly regulated industry requires exceptional security, flexibility, simplicity, and of course, international legal advice.