In the wake of now questionable reports that Russian malware was found on a Vermont electric company’s computer, some may wonder: Are local electric companies protected against cyber attacks?
Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval tells The Daily Advertiser the city-owned utility conducts daily scans of its system and updates its cyber security system every week to immediately address suspicious virus patterns.
LUS also utilizes an intrusion detection and prevention system, he said, and has other access restrictions along with multiple layers of firewalls.
In addition, LUS employees undergo frequent training that includes familiarity with a formal response plan in case something is detected, Huval said.
“LUS is routinely audited (by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation),” he said, “to ensure it has the proper cyber-security protocols in place to prevent a number of things, including outside hacks that could impact the electric system.”
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Cleco, SLEMCO and Entergy spokespersons said in statements to the Advertiser that they have security measures in place, too.
Robbyn Cooper, manager of investor relations and public relations for Cleco, wrote, “We understand cyber security is a dynamic process that requires continuous attention. Cleco uses internal and external resources to help ensure we are providing the best possible solution and communicates with governmental agencies when and if necessary.”
SLEMCO Communications Manager Mary Laurent wrote that the company is aware of the various cyber threats to its system and uses access controls and state-of-the-art equipment to protect itself. The utility’s network appliances are updated continuously to combat cyber threats, she wrote, and SLEMCO follows cyber security regulations by the Louisiana Public Service Commission and other authorities.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that digital code associated with Russian hackers was discovered on a laptop computer of a Burlington, Vermont, electric utility. The story quickly spread amid accusations that Russia hacked Democrat National Committee emails
On Monday, however, the newspaper clarified that federal investigators are now saying it appears the incident is not linked to the Russian government. Apparently, the newspaper reported Monday, a utility employee checking his email received an alert that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address, but it does not appear to be connected to Russian hackers.
The incident has raised concern that Russia or some other government or entity could hack into the nation’s electric grid, which could leave thousands of people in the dark, without air conditioning and refrigeration, and unable to pump gas or purchase supplies from grocery stores, for days and in some cases, weeks.