Cyber attacks to power networks could cost £111m daily

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Cyber attacks on London electricity networks are likely to disrupt over 1.5 million people and could cost £111 million daily, even for a relatively small attack, according to new research from Dr Edward Oughton, from the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (University of Oxford and the Centre for Risk Studies at the Cambridge Judge Business School). 

“Critical national infrastructure such as smart electricity networks are susceptible to malicious cyberattacks which could cause substantial power outages and cascading failure affecting multiple business, health and education organisations as well domestic supply,” comments Oughton. He warns that such attacks are likely to become more prevalent. 

A Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report, published earlier this year, noted that: “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways to steal information, to influence citizens, or disrupt critical infrastructure.”

The report, “Cyber-Physical Attacks on Electricity Distribution Infrastructure Networks”, published in the Risk Analysis journal, outlines conservative scenarios ranging from £20.6 million for a four-substation electricity event to £111.4 million for a 14-substation electricity event.

Until Edward and fellow researchers carried out this study, little was known about the effects and costs of cyber-physical attacks on electricity networks. Such networks are proving to be a point of failure which many people previously thought impermeable.

“The research will be of interest to governments, private infrastructure operators, commercial consumers of infrastructure services and other stakeholders who want to understand systemic risks from cyber-physical attacks on Critical National Infrastructure”, said Professor Daniel Ralph of the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies.

The paper uses the United Kingdom as a case study and identifies the direct impact on household and business consumers of power; the indirect impact of a cyber-physical attack to infrastructure beyond electricity; and provides a greater understanding of systemic risk arising from cyber and smart energy systems. The research demonstrates that these types of attacks on electricity distribution substations could lead to further indirect infrastructure cascading failure across telecoms, fresh water supply, waste water and even railways.

To view the paper, click here:

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