A new system against cyberattacks on the electrical network. This is one of the latest big news that the hospital engineering and electrical safety sector has received.
The announcement came at the beginning of July and the protagonists have been the Energy Research Institute of Catalonia (Irec), together with the electricity distribution company Anell. Both have launched a pilot for a platform that helps prevent and mitigate cyberattacks on systems as critical as the electricity grid, and which could be replicated in other distribution networks, both nationally and internationally.
The problem of cybercrime in Spain
We are so dependent on electricity that a prolonged blackout would jeopardize transportation systems, fresh water supplies, healthcare infrastructure, communications, and banking.
According to the IX Report on Cybercrime in Spain, the strategic sectors where the highest number of incidents have been detected have been energy —with 30.44% of attacks in 2021—, followed by finance with 25.29%. , and the water industry with 17.21%.
It is something that takes us directly back to what we were discussing in a post a few weeks ago. Improving hospital electrical networks is a global need, since electrical problems in health centers around the world are a matter of vital concern.
The lack of maintenance, the age of the devices or the overload of the electrical systems are just some of the reasons behind these problems, and we must know what we are really facing when we talk about electrical problems in healthcare centers.
“Cyber attacks healthcare have increased to the point that in 2022 more than 500 institutions reported incidents, an increase of 48% compared to 2021.“
The digitization of healthcare systems and the dependence on technology for the operation of hospitals and medical care centers have made the healthcare sector a target for cybercriminals.
We know that cyber attacks healthcare have increased, affecting hospitals and healthcare centers throughout the country, to the point that in 2022 more than 500 institutions reported incidents, an increase of 48% compared to 2021.
According to Ramón Gallart, innovation expert at Anell, “sometimes attackers can alter the values of electrical parameters and systems to affect supply and demand, as well as protection systems. The energy sector is not like a factory that has its production process behind walls, but our assets are all over the world”.
Gallart has explained that, in this way, the telecommunications layer and the energy layer interact reaching any place, which causes vulnerability to increase as the number of assets that are connected to the electrical network increases every day.
A project to fight cyberattacks
This new European SDN-microSENSE project seeks to provide a set of secure tools, enabled for privacy and resistant to cyberattacks, which guarantees the normal operation of the Electric Power and Energy Systems (EPES), as well as the integrity and confidentiality of communications and data.
Alba Colet, an expert in industrial communications and systems integration at Irec, explains in this regard that this technology, called ‘Software Defined Network’ (SDN), tries to unify the way of managing the communication ports of ‘switches’ —switches that manage the flow of information from a device—and thus direct data traffic in a centralized and standard way.
Colet recognized that it has been complex to bring together the needs of the two sectors (communications and electrical systems), “because even the language used is different” and, based on his experience, the great innovation is that it is a technology for use in the communications network that in the project is being applied to the distribution sector of the electrical network.
On the other hand, Pol Paradell, an expert in power electronics and the electrical network at IREC, has specified that the idea is that “if for some reason there is a saturated communication path, it is possible to analyze what alternative paths are available to pass the information on”, and even detect possible attackers to not only redirect traffic, but also block it.
“The idea is that if for some reason there is a saturated communication path, it is possible to analyze what alternative paths are available to pass the information on, and even detect possible attackers to not only redirect traffic, but also block it.“
In this sense, we have been collecting more proposals to protect the network against cyberattacks in full renewable ‘boom’. And it is that the growing activity of cybercriminals, together with their increasingly evident professionalization, makes it strictly necessary to undertake significant investments, while intensifying the training of personnel.
Electricity distribution has ceased to be just a supply to become a digital service that cannot be exploited without taking technology into account, leading to a digital transformation that is modifying energy production, distribution and consumption processes.
For this reason, with the integration of more and more renewable electricity generation, the improvement in hospital sustainability and the digitization of networks, with smart meters and advanced measurement systems, new challenges appear in the field of cybersecurity. Among them, opening up to more manufacturers, or promoting much more employee training.
Electrical failures and data security
This new project to create a system against cyberattacks on the electrical network has a direct impact on one of the main electrical failures in hospitals that can occur today, along with the overload of the electrical system and the malfunction of equipment, interruptions in the external electrical supply or electrical storms, deterioration and/or age of the electrical installation.
Not surprisingly, the electrical safety of the patient, healthcare personnel and medical systems and equipment is a crucial issue in healthcare centers.
“The challenge is to perfectly combat cyberattacks on the electrical network and avoid problems with the electrical current that could harm the health of patients, such as the operation of the health center and medical personnel.“