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Cybersecurity and Electrical Transformers: Understanding the Threats and Considering the Solutions

In our increasingly connected world, we depend on electricity for almost everything. This is why electrical transformers, essential elements of our energy infrastructure, have become potential targets for cyberattacks. While such attacks remain rare, ever-changing technology and the growing sophistication of cybercriminals present major challenges. In this post, we'll address potential threats and discuss solutions that can help strengthen the security of this vital infrastructure.

Cybernetic Threats:

These days, processors are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. For example, a transformer imported from China was seized in the United States for inspection to discover possible malicious implants. However, this type of attack is often linked to counterfeit products rather than sabotage intent.

Modern, increasingly sophisticated transformers are equipped with features that could be targeted. For example, some have active control functions. A key component of modern transformers is the on-load tap changer (OLTC), which can adjust the turns ratio according to the current load, thereby correcting the output voltage. If a malicious actor took control of the OLTC, it could cause voltage fluctuations disrupting the power grid.

Security Solutions:

Despite these risks, it is important to note that the chances of a successful attack remain relatively low. Transformer manufacturers have a vested interest in ensuring the security of their products, as a successful attack could have disastrous consequences for their reputation and business.

This is where important cybersecurity regulations come in, like the NIS Directive of the European Union and the NERC-CIP (North American Electric Reliability Corporation - Critical Infrastructure Protection). These regulations oblige companies to manage the vulnerabilities of their systems and to put in place adequate responses based on a risk assessment.

The NIS directive, for example, requires EU member states to put in place national cybersecurity strategies and establish computer security incident response teams. NERC-CIP, on the other hand, is a set of standards aimed at securing critical electricity infrastructure in North America.

Companies like Omicron have developed specific solutions to combat these threats. StationGuard is a solution that creates a database of known vulnerabilities for power grid automation . This database allows for increased responsiveness to potential threats.

In sum, while cyberattacks on power transformers remain a serious threat, industry players and regulators are working tirelessly to minimize these risks. The combination of strict regulations, such as the EU's NIS Directive and NERC-CIP, together with the implementation of sophisticated solutions such as Omicron's StationGuard, provides an enhanced level of protection against potential attacks.


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