Cyber attacks to grow as a threat to U.S. energy grid, Los Alamos head says

Los Alamos National Laboratory Dr. Charles McMillan Deloitte Energy Conference cyber attacks security

Cyber attacks, currently a serious threat to the American energy system, are set to become only more substantial in the coming years, said Dr. Charles McMillan, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, speaking at the 2013 Deloitte Energy Conference.

“Another area that I’d like to treat as an example is the security issues associated with our critical infrastructure,” McMillan said. “To just give you as sense of scale, in the time that it took me to say the last sentence my external firewalls at Los Alamos were challenged hundreds of times.” McMillan noted that, while he could say with high confidence that most of those attacks would be repelled, “I can’t say we will repel those attacks with complete confidence.”

According to McMillan, the growing threat  to the energy grid from cyber attacks is already evident in current trends—last year several hundreds cyber attacks on critical infrastructure were reported to the Department of Homeland Security, he said, adding, “Forty percent were on the energy infrastructure.”

To address the threat,  Los Alamos has been working with the University of Illinois to use quantum encryption to encrypt control signals in the power grid.

The good news is I can say with high confidence we will repel most of those attacks, I can’t say we will repel those attacks with complete confidence. The only viable response to the challenge from cyber attacks, however, is innovation.

“I look forward to some of the questions that I believe we are going to have to address within our energy systems,” McMillan said, “ andI believe the issues of security and then ultimately encryption are going to become an even more important part of that.”

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