Cyber attack on UK electricity administrator Elexon
Elexon, the UK’s electricity system’s administrator, has confirmed that it has fallen victim to a cyber-attack targeting the IT infrastructure used in running the country’s electricity supply.
The attack, which took place last Thursday afternoon, did not seem to affect the key systems that are used to govern the electricity market. The National Grid is now investigating whether such an attack could cause an electricity blackout, such as was seen in August of last year.
A spokesperson for the body explained that the electricity supply had not been affected by the attack and that “robust cybersecurity measures” exist to ensure that the country’s electricity supply remains reliable.
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.”
Elexon has also been investigating the issue on its end. Its website has confirmed that its internal emails have been affected by the attack and that none of its staff was able to access their email on Thursday. It has reassured the public that it does not hold any customer-level data, so this represents no risk to the public.
What is Elexon?
The function that Elexon provides in the context of the electricity market is not related to the real-time flow of electricity from power stations to the consumer. For this reason, the public can rest assured that the attack would not have impacted the power supplies and caused a blackout.
Elexon is instead tasked with comparing the volumes of electricity produced by power stations with the volumes sold by electricity providers. A charge is then applied for any differences between the two calculations. It also calculates, collects and distributes payments to Contract for Difference generators and Capacity Market providers.
The company is keen to point out that neither of the above functions was impacted by Thursday’s attack, as both functions occur on entirely separate systems from those affected by the incident. The two are said to have continued to work as normal both at the time and since.
Elexon has also stated that security has been increased on its BSC Central Systems, the systems used in the above functions, despite not having been affected by the attack.
Who owns Elexon?
Elexon Ltd. is a company contracted to work with the National Grid to administer the Balancing and Settlement Code (BSC), which it does through the functions laid out in the section above. It is the parent company of a group of subsidiaries which include the following:
- ELEXON Clear Limited
- EMR Settlement Limited
- BSC Co. Limited
- Poolserco Limited
- Poolit Limited
National Grid plc, which is the sole owner of Elexon, trades on both the London and New York stock exchanges. It is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index.
COVID-19 brings increased cyber threat
The foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said that national and international public entities and organisations responding to the COVID-19 outbreak have been “actively targeted” by cyber-criminals.
Get reliable, up-to-date informationFor trustworthy, up-to-date information regarding the development of the coronavirus pandemic, make sure you check official sources like the World Health Organization and the UK government.
Raab went on to say the objectives behind such attacks tend to be fraud or espionage, and that “they tend to be designed to steal bulk personal data, intellectual property and wider information that supports those aims”. The minister even suggested that malicious foreign states were aiding some of the attacks.
Our teams have identified campaigns targeting healthcare bodies, pharmaceutical companies, research organisations and various different arms of local government. - Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
Indeed, earlier last week two companies involved in the construction of emergency hospitals set up to combat COVID-19, Interserve and BAM Construct, confirmed that they had been victims of cyber-attacks. The Foreign Secretary described such acts as “particularly dangerous and venal at this time.”