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GAO Finds ‘Gaps’ in Smart Grid Cybersecurity Guidelines

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As electric companies make increasing gains to modernize the power grid, some have raised the concern of a malicious hacker breaking into the smart grid and wreaking havoc.

With that in mind, the Government Accountability Office issued a report this month, assessing the cybersecurity issues that continue to afflict the smart grid and asking whether security guidelines developed by the National Institutes for Standards and Technology and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have gone far enough.

The new report found six key areas of concern. They include:

§  The “regulatory environment” may make it difficult to enforce cyber smart grid guidelines.

§  Utilities are too focused on complying with regulatory rules rather than “comprehensive security.”

§  Customers are not informed of the benefits and risks of the smart grid.

§  Security features are not being adequately built in to smart grid systems.

The GAO report recommends that NIST more fully flesh out its cybersecurity guidelines, incorporating “missing elements,” to ensure greater security. FERC should develop a streamlined approach for dealing with compliance to address “gaps,” in the process, the report advises.

According to the report, both agencies agreed with the findings.

As implementation of the smart grid has ramped up, fears of cyber attacks have also increased. In November, Rep. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.), speaking at a cybersecurity conference, said there is a 100 percent chance of a cyber attack against the power grid.

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