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The smart grid is emerging across the U.S., that is for sure, but it seems during the restructuring of the power sector, companies disregarded the idea of cyber security, new research said.

“The restructuring of the power sector and the emergence of the smart grid has largely ignored the issue of cyber security,” ABI Research said. The use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on the power grid “means an evolution from isolated structures into open and networked environments where the subversion of power control systems has become a reality,” ABI said.

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Having said that, global spending on cyber security solutions to secure the infrastructure will reach $2.9 billion by the end of next year, ABI said.

“Industrial control systems have poor methods of authentication, little encryption and are not often capable of detecting intrusions,” ABI said. “By failing to address cyber security and focusing on the cost-savings and gained efficiencies of a market-oriented model, the susceptibility to cyber attacks has grown.”

Cyber Security

This report comes out just as U.S. Reps Ed Markey, D-Mass, and Henry Waxman, D-Calif issued a grid security report last week saying the industry-driven process of setting grid security standards causes delays and haphazard implementation of the voluntary security recommendations.

“Cyber attacks that can cause serious damage to electrical grids are a reality. Operators need to view cyber security as a core, integrated requirement of their offering and not as a secondary add-on,” said Michela Menting, ABI Research’s senior analyst for cyber security. “Efforts by governments and standardization bodies to tackle vulnerabilities within power control systems are raising the level of awareness.

“This is in turn driving a dedicated market in cyber security for critical infrastructure, targeting the security of industrial control systems, substations and advanced metering capabilities.”

GE, Honeywell and Siemens offer “dedicated cyber security services” to accompany their industrial control systems product offerings, ABI said.

A few energy firms have also made “significant efforts at implementing a cyber security culture within their electric grid operations,” ABI said.

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