Could our utility networks be held to ransom? How legacy communication technologies are leaving critical infrastructure at risk
It seems like we’ve barely drawn breath from the Wannacry ransomware attack, which swept across the world in May, and yet already another insidious form of ransomware is wreaking international havoc. Originally assumed to be a variant of an older form of malware called Petya, the attack has crippled the computer systems at, among others, the advertiser WPP, law firm DLA Piper, food company Mondelez and Danish shipping company Maersk.
Ukraine has been particularly badly affected, with the company’s national bank, Kiev airport, metro system and a state-owned aircraft manufacturer all coming attack. Why Ukraine? According to the Ukrainian Cyber Police, the attack was originally spread via a software update in an accounting program that all organisations working with the Ukrainian government need to use.
The drive for more environmentally friendly worldwide energy policies hit a major bump in the road last month when the USA announced plans to pull out of the Paris climate accord.
The agreement was drawn up within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is due to kick off in the year 2020, responding to the growing climate threat with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance. In short, it has become a key building block in the global fight against climate change.
The LTE era moved a little closer this month, with the first interoperability tests for mission-critical LTE scheduled to take place at the ETSI headquarters in France.
What does this mean in practice? LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. It’s a next generation standard for mobile communications, the latest iteration of an evolution that started with the analogue 1G standard in the 1980s. LTE increases both the speed and latency of wireless communications, which in turn increases reliability, clarity and mobility, with the opportunity to add more data-rich applications to communications networks.
British Airways (BA) hit the headlines over the recent bank holiday weekend when more than 300,000 passengers were severely delayed due to a catastrophic computing failure. The truth of what actually occurred is still emerging, even several weeks on. While some have blamed the outage on a power surge so powerful that it rendered the back-up system ineffective it has been suggested from various quarters that this only seems to be part of the picture.
Either way, the fallout has served to underline how, in the complex world of 21st century aviation, a single technical problem can rapidly spiral and have a truly enormous impact. Hundreds of thousands of passengers delayed and a subsequent compensation bill that may run into the millions. On top of this there’s the potential for severe reputational damage and the loss of future revenue this can bring.
Well that’s it… another memorable IWCE has drawn to a close.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the leading annual expo for the communications technology industry, staged once more at the Las Vegas Conference Centre in Nevada, USA, brought together some of the world’s leading companies to share knowledge, showcase the latest products, discuss industry trends and developments, and network.
The water industry is facing increasing pressure to modernise and revitalise much of its core infrastructure. In addition to pipelines, treatment plants and sewage systems, this also includes the need to upgrade the communication networks used in day-to-day operations, particularly those used to facilitate the transmission of reliable data.
At the same time, water companies are also facing the growing challenge posed by regulator fines for service disruption. This year is already proving to be particularly difficult, with a series of record fines being imposed due to illegal spills, overflows and leaks.
Prospects of Britain facing blackouts are “scare stories” which need to stop. That’s according to Steve Holliday, the former boss of National Grid, who believes the nation has enough electricity capacity to meet demand even during peak times.
His comments come as the latest round of capacity auction for power generation begins.
On December 1, UK government electricity and gas regulator Ofgem announced that they would be cutting £20m from the funding available to energy companies in the UK to create and distribute innovations across their networks. The funding pool available to companies for innovation advancements will now be £70m, rather than the previous £90m available.
Ofgem has made the announcement based on an independently commissioned review into the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF). In it, the LCNF found that Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) of the National Grid have made a myriad of important innovations using recent annual rounds of funding, but that there is room for improvement in regards to cost-effectiveness.
Earlier this week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that the UK government will invest more than £1bn in digital infrastructure, in order to support trials for 5G mobile technology.
The current ambition of the government is for the UK to be a world leader in 5G. The next generation of mobile technology will become commonplace across the UK within the next few years, but what is 5G, and what does this revolution mean for the communications industry?
Imagine the scenario. The country is shrouded in darkness. Power and utility systems have systems have failed. Unrest is breaking out as public services fail…
This nightmare situation could be possible if hackers shut down the UK electricity network, and as a result, concerns about attacks on critical infrastructure are currently a major worry for governments and security experts across the world.