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The UK's energy infrastructure could be at risk from cyberattacks

Christopher Frei, the World Energy Council's director general, believes the UK's energy infrastructure is at risk for a potentially devastating attack.

Potential cyber attacks that could affect the electric grid have worried those in the energy industry for the past few years as attacks have grown more complicated and have occurred more often. This is quite troubling considering how businesses and politicians in the UK heavily underestimate what a disruption in the electric system could do to the country.

In its annual report, the World Energy Council has flagged the issue of energy security and believes that external threats from terrorism and cyber attacks should be the focus of its attention.

China, Russia, Israel, the US and possibly Iran possess the capability to deploy a cyber attack that could disrupt a country's electrical grid according to Ewan Lawson, a senior research fellow in military influence at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies. If two countries were in a dispute but wanted to avoid a military confrontation, cyber attacks on one another's infrastructures could be deployed to disrupt their economies.

Using a cyber attack to take down a country's electrical grid was previously only hypothetical. However in December of last year, hackers were able to cause an electrical outage which led to tens of thousands of customers in central and western Ukraine losing power.

Since the incident, many governments have made cyber security a top priority and rightfully so since the economic cost of a blackout could be devastating for businesses and citizens.

Hopefully this latest report from the World Energy Council along with the recent power outage in Ukraine caused by a cyber attack, can influence both businesses and governments to improve their cyber security, especially when it comes to energy infrastructure.

Image Credit: zhengzaishuru / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.