A leading information technology security expert says the recent hacking of power infrastructure in the Ukraine is a wake-up call for utilities who had been ignoring warnings about the threats posed.

Hackers, suspected to have originated in Russia, succeeded in shutting down the Ukraine’s power grid last week in what security experts say is the first such case resulting in a power outage.
 Jason Lewis, Chief Scientist at LookingGlass Cyber Solutions
Jason Lewis, Chief Scientist at LookingGlass Cyber Solutions
, who were last year named as fastest growing IT company of the year at the annual World Information Technology Awards, told Power Engineering International, that up until this incident warnings from security experts were being ignored.

“The successful shutdown should be a wakeup call to all utilities – there is a real threat, and now we have a real world example. Malicious attacks against critical infrastructure should be at the top of the risk list, because it’s no longer hypothetical.”

Lewis says the reason the Ukraine couldn’t prevent the incident is because their adversary is persistent.

“With unlimited time and resources, everything is at risk. It’s highly likely this event is the culmination of several years of work. The lesson should be that there is always a value to the network being defended. The value may be different than what the owner perceives it to be, but there is value. Botnets are comprised of thousands of systems: individually, each system doesn’t have much value, but together, they can be sold, they can inflict damage, and they have more value than a single bot.”

The Ukrainian energy ministry said it was probing a “suspected” cyber-attack on the power grid, targeting several regional power companies, which the country’s intelligence service blamed on “Russian special services”.