• Security management system to safeguard country’s power grid

    The Centre plans to safeguard the country’s power grid by putting in place a security management system with the help of states amid growing fears of cyber attacks that can cripple the economy.

    Power secretary PK Pujari told ET that power generating companies, transmission firms and power distribution companies have been asked to implement information security management systems to safeguard the grid.

    The power ministry has asked all power companies to nominate a senior officer as their chief information security officer, who will coordinate cybersecurity related issues with the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) that was created under National Technical Research Organisation for taking all measures for protection of critical infrastructure in India.

    NCIIPC prevents cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, minimises vulnerabilities to such threats and reduces damage and recovery time when such attacks take place.

    Energy sector is seen as a key critical infrastructure whose destruction could cause a debilitating impact on national security, governance, economy and social well-being of a nation. Transportation, banking, telecom and defence are next on the list.

    “With increased technology usage, we see a bigger threat to the national electricity grid. It is more vulnerable to cyberthreats and can have a major impact on the economy,” Pujari said.

    The generating companies and transmission network are fairly protected with security systems in place, he said, but distribution companies have not paid attention to threats, making them vulnerable to attacks.

    A cyberattack on distribution companies can be more damaging as the utilities are the link between consumers and the power generation and transmission system, Pujari said.

    Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA) director general Sunil Misra said the government is now well aware of the potential cyberthreats to the electricity grid. “IEEMA has written to the National Security Advisor (NSA) to deliberate on ways to prevent and minimise such risks by holding talks with the power ministry, NITI Aayog and stakeholders like us,” he said.

    The domestic electrical equipment industry has been raising concerns about contracts awarded to Chinese companies for installation of supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) for power distribution that can lead to foreign control over a sector critical to the country’s growth.

    Many contracts for implementation of SCADA—for better power distribution and management—in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry have been bagged by foreign firms.

    Local power equipment manufacturers said it could also be a threat to national security as electric distribution systems carry power to pipelines, water systems, telecommunications and other critical infrastructure, while also serving critical government and military facilities.

    Distribution-level cyberattacks that disrupt electric service to such facilities can have severe economic and security consequences. Such attacks can lead to control of the distribution system from remote areas, exchange of critical data and a greater threat to the national grid, IEEMA has said.

    Between 2005-06 and 2013-14, India’s imports of electrical equipment increased 19.73% to Rs 58,354 crore. China’s share in Indian imports of electrical equipment is nearly 40% now compared to 15.26% in 2005-06.

    Cheaper imports have also affected the local transmission and distribution equipment manufacturing sector, which is underutilised. Alec Ogletree Authentic Jersey

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