Could the UK’s electricity grid be at risk from a cyber-attack?

Two months after the Wonnacry cyber-attack which brought organisations such as the NHS to their knees, experts within the energy sector are looking at how open the UK’s electricity grid would be to a cyber-attack. Wonnacry was a piece of ransomware which infects a computer and asks for a ransom to be paid or risk losing access to the computer.

A computer virus known as ‘Industroyer’ is currently being analysed by scientists in Europe, after it caused a blackout in Kiev, Ukraine. Industroyer is a virus which is specifically designed to target industry control systems such as electricity substations, causing huge amounts of damage to electricity infrastructure. A similar virus once affected the Iranian nuclear programme, causing millions of pounds’ worth of damage, with many people around the world suggesting the United states were involved in the attack, although that was never proven.

If a virus such as this was to infect the UK’s electricity grid, it could cost the country billions to repair and leave millions without power for an unknown period of time. This is why a lot of countries around the world will be interested in the results from the analysis on Industroyer in Europe.

The UK’s energy system is linked up by decades-old software and many fears that it makes the system vulnerable to an attack. However, the UK’s cyber security is currently under review and infrastructure which is of national security such as electricity, gas and water will be the first place to be given extra resources.