Almost 63% of utility executives globally believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of a cyberattack on the electric grid in the next five years, according to a report from consulting firm Accenture.
In North America, even more utility executives — 76% — see a cyberattack as likely in the next five years. The study also showed that 43% of utility executives are concerned about physical threats to their distribution systems.
The findings echo results from Utility Dive's 2017 survey of utility professionals, which found cyber and physical grid security to be the most pressing issue facing respondents today.
Cybersecurity is a growing concern for utilities. In May, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on cybersecurity that included a call for the Department of Energy to assess gaps in the cybersecurity of the power grid.
A cyberattack on Ukraine’s grid in 2015 heightened concerns that the U.S. could be vulnerable to a similar attack. And in June the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said there is a growing threat that cyberattacks could be used to cause widespread power outages.
Accenture’s new report, "Outsmarting Grid Security Threats," underscored those concerns among utility executives. The report surveyed more than 100 utilities executives from over 20 countries. A total of 57% of the respondents listed interruptions to the power supply from cyberattacks as their most serious concern.
Those concerns are even more pronounced when it comes to the new technologies being introduced to the grid. 88% of the respondents said cybersecurity is a major concern in smart grid deployment.
Executives at distribution utilities are also concerned about the threats inherent in the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) that enables domestic devices, such as home hubs and smart appliances, to be connected to the grid. 77% of the respondents said IoT is a potential cybersecurity threat.
“Deployment of the smart grid could open new attack vectors if cybersecurity is not a core component of the design, however, the smart grid can also bring sophisticated protection to assets that were previously vulnerable through improved situational awareness and control of the grid,” Stephanie Jamison, managing director, Accenture Transmission and Distribution, said in a statement.