“Utility cyber security is in a state of near chaos” and many attacks on energy firms “simply cannot be defended”.

That is the conclusion of a white paper published today by leading Smart Grid analysis company Pike Research.

Pike found that while the growth of smart projects continues apace, the associated security challenges are nowhere close to being resolved.

Pike’s senior analyst Bob Lockhart said: “After years of vendors selling point solutions, utilities investing in compliance minimums rather than full security, and attackers having nearly free rein, the attackers clearly have the upper hand. Many attacks simply cannot be defended.”

However, he added that “there is hope”. He said Pike had detected “a dawning awareness by utilities during the past 18 months of the importance of securing smart grids with architecturally sound solutions”.

Lockhart said that security vendors are increasingly focusing on industrial control system security, rather than only on advanced metering infrastructure security.

He predicted that the utility cyber security market will be characterised by a “frantic race to gain the upper hand against the attackers, while at the same time strong competitors attempt to outdo each other”.