About 225,000 people were left without power for several hours when Ukraine suffered what is believed to be the first successful cyber-attack on an electricity distribution network. More details are now emerging about the attack which took place in December.
The attackers were able to remotely access the supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) systems and cut power at 17 substations. They jammed company phone lines, making it hard for engineers to determine the extent of the blackout and prevented power supplies from being turned back on automatically. This meant that engineers had to visit individual substations and operate them manually.
The concern is that power networks in other countries could be vulnerable to similar attacks and that it may be possible to cause much wider spread disruption.
At a DGSF Forum meeting on 3rd March 2016, DGSF members considered the challenges of securing smart infrastructure and Scada systems, as well as learning about how these issues are being covered in the refresh of the National Cyber Strategy.
In a speech at GCHQ, the chancellor George Osborne warned that an attack on the UK’s electricity network could lead to ‘loss of life’ and confirmed a near doubling of spending on cyber defences to £1.9 billion over five years.