September 18, 2018

CT officials: Utilities thwarted millions of hacking attempts

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Eversource power transmission lines linking Norwalk and Middletown.
HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon
Arthur House, state cyber security risk officer, speaks at a recent event in East Hartford.

Connecticut cybersecurity officials said Tuesday that utility companies have faced more frequent and sophisticated attempts to penetrate their networks over the past year, but suffered no breaches.

In a second annual review of utility cyberdefenses -- a confidential process in which Eversource, Avangrid, Connecticut Water and Aquarion have voluntarily participated for the past two years -- Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer Arthur House and three other state officials involved in the review determined that the four companies have "adequate defense capabilities" and are continuing to make provisions to prevent future attacks.

The 2017 cybersecurity review had a similar finding.

In the past year, officials said there have been improvements in cyber-defense efforts. Utility boards of directors are more involved in the discussion, employee training programs are more extensive, the hiring of outside firms to prove cyber defenses has become the norm, and utilities are planning coordinated training exercises specific to a cyber attack, according to the report.

One ongoing challenge is ensuring that utility system links with vendors are as secure as possible. The report said some utilities are reviewing the security of all vendors, even those that they've worked with for years.

Another challenge is that some broadband and cable utilities have refused to participate in the state cyber review, despite officials' urging.

"These four utilities conducted serious, in-depth reviews with top management support," House said. "This report underscores the potential of public/private partnership to advance cybersecurity in Connecticut."

While the reviews remain optional, House predicted recently that cyber audits for both utilities as well as large companies may one day become required by state law.

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