More than 20,000 utility employees BRIDGE Energy Group’s 2017 BRIDGE Index Grid Operations surveyed disclosed “a low percentage of major security projects being implemented, indicating utilities seemingly have a false belief that a Ukraine-like security breach can’t happen in the US.
Twenty-four percent are concerned about increased cyber security and compliance risks, and 76 percent haven’t yet fully integrated their real-time security and operations data.
Less than 30 percent use dashboard or geospatial visualizations for reporting security or compliance metrics, and only 25 peecent of utilities have developed a unified chain of command for primary operations security.
Forty-five percent of the workers surveyed also “indicated that limited supply of experienced staff or retirements are top challenges.
“A major grid breach in the US is imminent,” said BRIDGE Energy Group VP of Grid Security Richard Jones. “The lack of integrated, real-time security data resulting in missing operational vulnerabilities will continue to slow any incident response time. We are also concerned to find that observed organizational challenges identified in our 2016 Security Survey — that needed to be addressed — continue to persist. Left unaddressed, these security issues will continue to increase response times for operational failures and grid attacks.”
“Fortunately,” Jones said, “the US public has yet to experience direct service impact from a utility cyber-attack. As we begin 2017, utilities still have the opportunity to develop their own focused programs targeted at securing their unique operations without regulatory mandate.”
The survey report said, “The ability to staff real-time systems experts continues to be an impediment to both the delivery of new operational technology [OT] projects and meeting the demands of day-to-day systems operation. OT resource planning and risk management at a portfolio level is required to effectively prioritize and optimize what is typically a constrained set of key resources.”
While the survey found that, “Consistent with the industry’s increased spend on Grid Modernization, top projects planned include systems, infrastructure and technologies focused on the communication, visualization and quality of data … the foundational projects required to achieve Grid Modernization goals,” results also revealed “utilities are still concerned about the lack of IT/OT alignment, cybersecurity and IT’s learning curve.”
“These concerns take on increasing importance and must be addressed for utilities to take full advantage of the digital grid,” the company said.