Posted on March 15, 2022 at 12:37 PM
The increased adoption of smart appliances and solar panels has made Australia’s electricity grid more vulnerable to cyber attacks than ever before. Security experts have expressed concerns that Australia’s electricity grid could be targeted by hackers and state-sponsored threat actors.
The concern comes as organizations and government agencies are increasing the strength of their security systems following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There are increased fears that Russia will unleash cyber attacks in retaliation for unprecedented economic sanctions by the Western government.
Russia Could Target Electricity Grid Of Adversaries
According to two of Australia’s top cybersecurity advisors, Russia’s target against adversaries could include electricity networks, and Australia’s electricity grid could be vulnerable to any attack.
The warning is coming as Australia embraced rooftop solar that communicates with the electricity grid via the internet.
A leading energy regulator in Australia admitted that electricity networks should increase their investment in cyber security to help protect the grid against online assault.
Chief strategy officer at cybersecurity firm CyberCX, Alastair MacGibbon, stated that the risks were increasing as the electricity system became more multifaceted. “The more connected you are the more important cyber security is,” Mr. MacGibbon noted.
He added that it is now a reality when the way everything functions, including baning, water, Last year, the Queensland electricity generator CS was hit by a devastating attack by Russian state-sponsored hackers. It affected the company, as they couldn’t offer their full services to consumers for some period. In such forms of attacks, the threat actors invade the firm’s computer systems and threaten to seize or destroy critical information if the victim refuses to pay a ransom.
In response to the attack on CS Energy, Chief Executive Officer of Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, Rachael Falk, stated that the attack was very serious. She said the attack almost crippled the supply of electricity in the biggest states in Australia.
She added that one of the biggest threats organizations face at the moment is a ransomware attack. And industrial and electricity companies have become the main targets for these threat actors. She likened ransomware attacks as having a tsunami through their business. “It’s ruined everything, there is nothing left untouched, it’s devastating,” she reiterated.
Threat Actors Are Becoming More Sophisticated
Falk also said that companies are facing increased dangers of cyber-attacks daily because these threat actors are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and smarter in the way they operate. They are also now more adaptable to their environment and use every slight opportunity to infiltrate large organizations. In the past, threat actors are contented with attacks on individuals and small organizations. But now, more have become big-game players who are interested in major corporations, because they would make more from ransomware payments.
Falk also noted that the threat actors are very good at cloning government websites and mimicking emails. They can decide to clone any website and make it very convincing to deceive people.
Western Australia is now taking steps to tackle the increased level of cyber attacks on organizations. The Economic Regulation Authority (ERA), the state’s economic watchdog, is proposing a five-year spending plan of Western Power, which generates power for more than two million consumers.
Steve Edwell, who is ERA chairman, stated that electricity companies should increase their budget allocation on cybersecurity, as they are now facing more cyber threats than ever before.
Mr. Edwell added that most people would be “gobsmacked” if they realize how often electricity companies are targeted by hackers. He stated that the Federal Parliament is already attending to legislation that will formalize requirements for power providers to strengthen their cyber defenses.
He added that serious network businesses in the country should be rating cyber security among their top risks. This is because anyone that conducts businesses electronically is subject to cyber-attacks.
Households Are Potential Entry Points For The Attackers
Edwell noted that consumers now lower their bills and enjoy greater autonomy due to the uptake of solar and smart appliances like internet-enabled air conditioners and fridges. However, this has also increased the risk of attacks, as they can potentially become entry points for the threat actors.
Once the threat actors find it easier to infiltrate the connected devices. once they get into the devices, it can lead them to the network of the companies that offer the services, he reiterated.