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Among U.S. Utilities Surveyed, 60 Percent Plan to Upgrade Grid Security in 2011

Smart Grid

July 12, 2011

Among U.S. Utilities Surveyed, 60 Percent Plan to Upgrade Grid Security in 2011

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

According to the results of a new survey of 150 U.S. utilities, they have allocated substantial money this year to reinforce and upgrade grid security—with specific attention placed on client security appliances and software (antivirus, anti spam, and anti-malware) and intrusion prevention.

In fact, more than 75 percent of the respondents surveyed deem security investments to be of the highest importance. At the same time, 38 percent of the respondents depict security to be one of the top IT initiatives this year.

IDC Energy Insights, of Framingham, Massachusetts, has released a report based on the survey, Business Strategy: Smart Grid Security – What’s Real and What's Hype  that provides analysis of the security initiatives among North American utility companies,.

The report warns that information officers ( CIOs and CISOs) need to carefully evaluate the architecture to ensure end-to-end infrastructure safety and protection, given all the unknowns in the smart grid arena. Other findings in the report include:

More than 60 percent of the survey respondents plan investments in new security solutions, or maintaining or upgrading their existing solutions.

Planned investment in security software is particularly high, with 58 percent of respondents identifying that one area as 25 percent to 49 percent of their budget.

A majority of utility CIOs recognize that data protection will be a key issue. Some utilities already are collecting large amounts of data via their pilot programs, and they are starting to realize that, to win customers' confidence, they have to employ protection schemes.

Many utility CIOs express concern about the lack of security standards for home area networks (HANs), which will push security vulnerabilities upstream, requiring the utility to perform ongoing vulnerability testing in multiple areas.

“There's great momentum in the industry toward ensuring security is addressed in smart grid projects; however, these efforts are led by 50 percent of the large utility companies,” says Usman Sindhu, senior research analyst, IDC (News - Alert) Energy Insights. “While investments are picking up, utility companies are still behind on developing a security-aware culture. CIOs and CISOs will play a key role; they should be ready to work with operations and engineering groups to ensure security and risk practices are implemented.”

Interestingly, in April , Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets released the report, Global Security Software Market 2010-2014, which found that the global security software market is expanding at a 13.7 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) , on target to reach $27.8 billion in 2014. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is increasing frequency and complexity of threats.

In line with all of these findings, there is a meeting in Chicago this week being hosted by Electric Utility Consultants, Inc., on the subject of Cyber Security 101 for Utilities.

What’s more, on Thursday, July 14, the U.S. Department of Defense is planning to release the non-classified portion of its strategy to handle cyber attacks. The strategy addresses the economic, security, law enforcement, military, governance, international development and internet freedom aspects of the cyber realm.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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