Executives Prepare For Potential Cyberattacks On Energy Industry | WABE 90.1 FM

Executives Prepare For Potential Cyberattacks On Energy Industry

May 6, 2015

During the first cyberattack simulation, executives, law enforcement officers and IT professionals worked to respond quickly to a water plant explosion.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

The Department of Homeland Security says more than half of all cyberattacks in 2013 targeted the energy industry.

On Tuesday, more than 100 executives and law enforcement officials went through a series of mock cyberattacks at Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus.

In the first portrayal: a couple of military veterans buy explosives on eBay. They used the explosives to bomb a fictional water plant in Cobb County. 

During the first cyberattack simulation, the IT team worked to make sure their physical equipment was intact after a water plant explosion.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Cybersecurity professionals and executives have one hour to come up with a response.

Utility companies are popular targets. 

Bryan Ferris is with the Technology Association of Georgia and a former chief information officer with General Electric's energy division, headquartered in Atlanta. He says power outages can be deadly. 

“If it’s a really extended period of time, you start endangering patients, etc." Ferris says. "So it’s very critical that we keep power up and available and on the grid.”

Georgia State University Deputy CIO, Sallie Wright, says the first simulation was a good reminder of making sure facilities are physically secure.   

"I think that the industry is changing in that those two ─ the physical and the information ─ they're kind of converging," Wright says.  

John Harte, chief information security officer with Starr Insurance, was excited about a second cyberattack simulation. 

During the second cyberattack simulation, executives and cybersecurity professionals respond to a network phishing attack. Hackers have also implanted a device that can talk to cellphone towers and insert signals into an electrical grid.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

“Somebody’s broken into their network ─ phishing email ─ and they’ve also implanted a device that can talk to cellphone towers and they can insert signals into an electrical grid." Harte says. "Now that’s intriguing as a security professional.” 

Organizers of the event asked executives to contact their power company and encourage them to beef up their cybersecurity.