"It’s not just a scenario of a bored teenager, deciding to show off to his or her girlfriend. In many cases, these are organized gangs of thieves," said Caleb Barlow, IBM’s VP for mobile management and security, while describing the new face of cybercrime in an interview with CNBC.
How well organized are they?
Statistics from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime back him up. According to the agency, 80% of cyberattacks come from gangs that are extremely well organized. And as Barlow commented, part of their effectiveness comes from their willingness to share information among themselves. That, according to a survey from cybersecurity company vArmour and consulting firm Blue Lava, is something a majority of security professionals say they don’t do.
"On the dark side of the Internet, one of the things we see is that they are collaborating to share tools, and to share ideas, and .. data on how to attack," he said.
A social media platform for threat intelligence
Council Lead Partner IBM, a supporter of collaboration in the industry, has come up with a way security professionals can share information as well. It recently launched X-Force Exchange, a new social media platform that functions very much like popular social media site Pinterest. The platform, which IBM refers to as a "threat intelligence sharing platform," enables them to share information on cyberattacks as they occur on a global basis.
The Exchange is based on IBM data gathered as it tracks billions of security instances that could be damaging, but aren’t all considered major intrusions. "Large data sets like these are usually held in proprietary forms or maybe are shared [among] folks in a particular industry, like the financial services," Barlow was quoted as saying. "But what we recognize is the importance of sharing this on a much larger scale."
Can microgrids help with grid security, too?
Microgrids aren’t usually thought of as an integral element in strategies to thwart cyberattacks. Typically, they’re thought of as backup power source, filling in while damaged electric grids are being repaired. But according to an article in Energy Efficiency Markets.com, the military, already an early adopter of distributed generation and storage technologies, believes microgrids can capably play an important role in fighting cyber threats.
The military does a good job of finding security vulnerabilities in their systems before attackers do, but they’re not all going to be discovered in time. "We realize we are not going to be able to thwart every [cyber] attack. Microgrids are considered mission critical. We can’t afford loss of capabilities if the commercial grid fails; we have to be up and running," said David Curfman, assistant commander and public works director for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
The Department of Defense widely recognizes vulnerabilities in the commercial grid and the need for enhanced energy security for its operations. And microgrids and distributed resources are very much a part of that.
As David Chiesa, director of microgrid business development for Council Lead Partner S&C Electric, put it: "If you take a look at what Denmark did over the last 20 years, it started off with five large centralized generating stations. Today it has over 100 distributed resources. That’s where we are headed."
Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.
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