Smart Grid

A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviours of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production, transmission  and distribution of electricity [U.S. Department of Energy].

It is a critical infrastructure, e.g. an asset that is essential for the functioning of a society or an economy. Other types of critical infrastructure include telecommunication networks, water supply and transportation systems.

Any successful (cyber) attack on such an infrastructure could result in long-term and wide-scale disruption of services with significant implications for the economy and society as a whole. As a result securing critical infrastructure is a growing concern to governments.

How big or significant is this threat?

  • In autumn 2012 U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta warned that successful attacks have been already made on computer control systems of American electricity and water plants and transportation systems and that the United States could experience a “cyber Pearl Harbor”.
  • US National Intelligence Director James Clapper outlined in his annual 2012 report to Congress that unsophisticated attacks could penetrate poorly protected computer networks for power grids or similar systems.