Cyber threat warning to world energy

By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

The World Energy Council has said that the UK is at severe risk of a cyber attack against its energy infrastructure.

Christopher Frei, director general at the World Energy Council, said the UK was one of several countries facing a growing threat.

He said: “In the last two years this issue has really come close to – if not to the top of – the issues keeping energy leaders awake at night. “So cyber is a very big issue for energy infrastructure.”

He thinks that politicians and businesses in the UK are underestimating the potential risk of this type of attack.

This looming issue came to light in the World Energy Council’s annual report. The report states: “Since the last report, UK energy security has seen a marked refocusing on to non-industry-related external threats such as those from terrorism and cyber attacks, whether individual or state-sponsored.”

Ewan Lawson, a senior research fellow in military influence at Rusi, the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies said: “State actors with the capabilities are China, Russia, possibly Iran, Israel and the US.”

“If the situation deteriorated between the UK and Russia it’s feasible that the Russian state could encourage some of its non-state actors to act on its behalf. This is happening more broadly in terms of Ukraine.”

The threat is very real, last December there was the first recorded power outage due to a cyber attack. Hackers were able to disable central and West Ukraine’s electricity supply, which affected thousands of customers in the country, which has been embroiled in a war with Russia.

Dr Mike Westmacott, cyber security practice technical lead at Thales Cyber & Consulting said: “It is absolutely becoming a higher risk, especially given Ukraine where there was an actual attack against energy infrastructure.”

Dr Liam Fox MP added: “This is not a theoretical risk but a very real threat.”

Furthermore a government spokesperson said: “Cyber security is a top priority for the government. We have already invested £860m in defending the UK against cyber attacks, with a further £1.9bn dedicated to this issue.”

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