Protecting critical infrastructure: is electricity as safe as pensions? – Circle

Star Trek? no Main Transnet control center in Vendlingen. Photo: dpa/Marijan Murat

Transnet BW manages the power lines in Baden-Württemberg, the control center is in Vendlingen: part of the important infrastructure. How is it protected? The company keeps a low profile for security reasons.

Robert Habeck made Norbert Blüm: “The energy supply is secure,” the Greens’ vice chancellor and federal economy minister said on Tuesday during a visit to the high-voltage power center of Transnet BW in Baden-Württemberg. Wendlingen. Which brings to mind the CDU social politician’s famous boomerang sentence about secure pensions. Habeck’s party mate Winfried Kretschmann Vendlingen didn’t throw a boomerang, but it did slightly darken the reassuring message: “If there is no attack.” This gave Habeck-Blüm’s security statement the necessary tinge of exasperation. Because despite all the precautions and great efforts to survive the cold winter in as harmless conditions as possible, in addition to Vladimir Putin’s energy war and crisis, there are other factors of uncertainty that can also return to the warmonger in the Kremlin: cyber or physical attacks on critical infrastructure in general and electricity in particular network. Saboteurs – whether on behalf of Putin or free radicals – could not only turn off the lights in large areas.

An important headquarters in Vendlingen

As one of the four main operators of the so-called transmission grids – supra-regional high-voltage lines with 220 or 380 kilovolts – Transnet BW would be a possible target. To some extent, the web spider is Wendlinger’s main control center, only this important control center does not eat electricity, but supplies it, or rather: feed is distributed as needed. If we are to draw any conclusions from the communication behavior of EnBW’s wholly-owned subsidiary, the security of its critical infrastructure must be of greatest or least concern. For security reasons, virtually nothing is learned about the concept of security. In other words, either the situation is worrying or Transnet BW is taking it confidently seriously. Or both.

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risk is taken seriously

At least as much as a company spokesperson confirms: “We take the risk of attacks against our physical and digital systems and devices very seriously. network operator. But “responsible authorities with whom we are in direct contact”.

Cyber ​​attacks have increased significantly

One of these bodies is the Federal Bureau of Information Security (BSI). Although the Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) only assumed an “abstract threat to the energy infrastructure” in September, the BSI report on the “IT security situation in Germany in 2022” published at the end of October sounds much more dramatic: especially in the last few months, there has been a significant increase in cyber attacks. In addition to the usual cybercrimes, BSI sees attacks against government institutions and companies against the background of the war in Ukraine. According to the report, critical infrastructures could become interesting targets for “state cyberattacks”. All in all, Germany has an easy hand so far compared to other EU countries. However, hacker attacks against several German municipal administrations or the sabotage of Deutsche Bahn, which on October 8 paralyzed train traffic in northern Germany for hours, shows what a threat there is in this country.

Silence is protection

A Transnet spokeswoman also confirmed: “We regularly test and assess the security of our systems. We work together with experts in IT security, property and sabotage protection.” As a result, Transnet BW has certified “a high level of security” and “the best possible protection for our systems”. According to the spokeswoman, the latter means that “we basically do not provide any information about the security measures we have taken.”

How could I have missed this for almost 30 years?

No matter how comprehensive the firewall is against virtual viruses. It cannot provide an absolute guarantee against the sophistication of hackers, against human or technical failures. And even if the software is relatively secure, the structural “hardware” is not, as the example of the train sabotage shows: just…

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