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 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.