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UK Electricity System Keeps Lights on During Cyberattack


The UK’s energy system fended off a cyberattack targeting the IT infrastructure of the electricity market on Thursday afternoon.

Elexon, a middleman between electricity generators, energy suppliers and traders, confirmed its internal systems and company laptops had been affected by the attack. Staff at the company were reportedly locked out of systems and unable to send or receive emails on Thursday. However, the key infrastructure Elexon uses to manage the electricity market was unaffected.

The company said it had “identified the root cause” of the attack and was “working hard to resolve” the problem. By Thursday afternoon, it had managed to get some systems back online.

Elexon is a key player in the UK’s electricity market, monitoring the electricity generated by power companies and matching that with what National Grid expects to receive and overseeing payments to those generators. It balances and settles £1.7 billion of transactions each year, covering energy equivalent to the annual demand of six million homes.

National Grid said electricity supplies in the UK had not been affected by the attack and confirmed there are “robust cybersecurity measures” in place to protect the UK’s energy system.

A spokesperson for the energy system operator said: “We’re aware of a cyber intrusion on Elexon’s internal IT systems. We’re investigating the matter and any potential impact on our own IT networks.”

Cyberattacks on businesses have soared during the lockdown, as more employees work from home and log on from remote locations with less security. 

Hackers have targeted banks in particular, with the VMware Carbon Black annual report noting a 283% increase in attacks against the financial sector between February and April.

Last week, two firms involved in constructing the emergency Nightingale hospitals confirmed they had been hit by cyberattacks. Outsourcing firm Interserve, which helped build Birmingham’s emergency hospital, said hackers had broken into its human resources database, accessing the personal details of up to 100,000 current and former employees.

BAM Construct, which worked on hospitals in Yorkshire and the Humber, confirmed that hackers had gained access to parts of its IT systems but said the company had “stood up well” to the attack.

However, energy systems, as critical national infrastructure, were already in hackers’ aim before the crisis. Norwegian state-owned utility firm Statkraft has been reporting more than 150 cyberattacks each year.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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