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Public utilities struggle to try and meet growing cyberattack threat

Public utilities are facing significant cyberattacks, especially from foreign-based hackers, and the US government wants to try and improve security

By: Michael Hatamoto from May 21, 2014 @ 21:17 CDT

Recent news of a brute-force attack that compromised a weak password system at an unnamed public utility is the latest example of a growing threat to public utility companies. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI are working with utility companies in an effort to beef up cybersecurity, hoping to avoid industrial control functions from being compromised.

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"It's not a question of if but when we are going to have some sort of cyberattack on the grid," said Philip Jones, U.S. energy regulator, during a recent speech. "My biggest nightmare is that there is a coordinated physical and cyberattack."

Many public utilities also rely on Windows XP, which reached end of support early last month, though likely are paying Microsoft for additional security. However, it's foreign-based cyberthreats that are especially frightening, with China, Russia, Syria, and North Korea reportedly trying to compromise U.S. utility infrastructure.

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