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Britain's utility companies 'wide open' to cyber attack
[April 21, 2011]

Britain's utility companies 'wide open' to cyber attack

Apr 19, 2011 (London Evening Standard - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Privatised utility companies are woefully unprepared for a terrorist cyber attack similar to that which crippled Iran's nuclear programme, leaving essential services of water, electricity, and gas extremely vulnerable, according to two separate reports today.

The studies, by the US Center for International and Strategic Studies and the UK's Cyber Security Research Institute, warn that equipment used to control the critical national infrastructure in the US and the UK is lagging behind the IT world in terms of computer security, and that connecting those systems to the internet has left them wide open to a cyber attack.

Last year Iran admitted that one of its nuclear installations had been damaged by a computer virus called Stuxnet.

In the recent Defence Review the British Government set aside UKpound650 million to deal with cyber issues including improving the CNI.

But one expert quoted in the CSRI report said: "The pot of money that the Government has allocated to this is not big enough to protect its own critical infrastructure let alone research the national critical national infrastructure to find out what needs to be done." According to the CSRI study, the electricity industry is particularly prone to a cyber attack.

In this report the UK lagged at the bottom of the table for government security audits.

The report also pointed out that the vulnerability was particularly worrying because of an increasing level of cyber attacks which are either aimed at extorting money from companies or using cyber espionage to steal information, and because of plans in the US and Europe to introduce new "smart grid" technology which will allow homes to generate electricity for the grid.

According to Jim Woolsey, former United States Director of Central Intelligence: "90-95 percent of the people working on the smart grid are not concerned about security and only see it as a last box they have to check." A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Ensuring the UK's critical infrastructure, vital government networks and services are appropriately secure and remain resilient from electronic attack is a central pillar of the National Cyber Security Programme which will be implemented over the next four years, utilising the additional UKpound650 million funding allocated to cyber under the Strategic Defence & Security Review.

"This new funding is in addition to the resource allocated to network security in existing departmental budgets." To see more of the London Evening Standard, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, London Evening Standard Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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