Utility companies must continuously monitor the power grid for cyber threats, collect cyber data in real time, and leverage next-gen, artificial intelligence-based cybersecurity.

Recent cold snaps are a sober reminder to the U.S. energy sector that a full-blown winter is here. Unfortunately, the expected increase in residential energy usage could potentially create a higher security threat environment for the nation. There are a handful of things people can do to take personal measures to eliminate risks, but utility companies have a substantial responsibility to keep the power grid and the communities they serve safe by maintaining power and ensuring their security. This means taking an aggressive approach to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack that could give hackers access to the personal data of its customers.

Hackers on the prowl

In 2021 Texas experienced the record-breaking Winter Storm Uri, which caused at least 80% of the state to be blanketed by snow. Unprepared for the severe storm, it created an unstable power grid that left 20 million Texans without electricity. The event left utilities across the state in a highly vulnerable position – straining the power grid to the extreme. It’s times like this when customers are acutely at risk of their information being hacked. To add insult to injury, material shortages are affecting supply chains that deliver critical services and goods that provide populations with reliable and safe energy. Naturally, there were product interruptions as the demand exceeded the available supply. This can put a strain on the daily supplies that utility companies rely on, and that can leave a team spread thin while working with fewer resources.

Weather and supply chain issues are certainly not the only threats that can put the power grid and customers at risk. Just last year, the result of a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline Company was deemed a national security threat and declared a state of emergency. The system – a 5,500-mile-long pipeline that carries 3 million barrels of fuel between Texas and New York each day – was forced to shut down for several days following the attack, causing major disruptions. Just a few short years ago, fraudulent emails that looked like they came from the National Council of Examiners caused a malware attack on the utility sector. It was organized by hackers who executed an attack that contained malicious macros. In these two instances, the information of customers everywhere was put at risk.


Clearly, there are multiple vulnerabilities power utilities can face daily, and no company is immune to them. This can be incredibly problematic because when there is a disruption to the power grid’s operations, there is an abundance of damage it can bring to customers. Unfortunately, this is even more so the case for smaller, more vulnerable electricity providers. Not only can it pose dangers for consumers, but it can directly impact the economy. Knowing this, there’s no question that protecting the energy is of paramount importance. The problem is that current software and protocols just aren’t sufficient to protect critical energy infrastructure. To best safeguard, the power grid and the populations it serves, utilities must make a move now and upgrade to next-gen cybersecurity solutions.

The first step in ensuring the safety of utility companies and their customers is to eliminate risks anywhere they are possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a possibility when using antiquated platforms. For example, when there are supply chain issues, utilities face more vulnerabilities to malware attacks. This is because when an organization is facing this issue, they often must carry on providing services with less-than-ideal equipment and a reduced support team. In a cybersecurity intelligence report, it was shown that human error is what leads to 95% of cybersecurity breaches. When support teams are working with fewer than needed people, there just isn’t enough manpower to focus on all cybersecurity threats. In this situation, an end-to-end cybersecurity platform covers the gaps and provides the extra necessary support.

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