Deutsche Telekom talks up power grid partnerships

Deutsche Telekom

German incumbent Deutsche Telekom has established partnerships with power company Hitachi Energy and security services provider Securitas to develop an overarching approach to protecting the grid.

Power grids represent a juicy opportunity for hackers to cause maximum disruption, and correspondingly, securing them could prove lucrative for telcos. Deutsche Telekom, which has a dedicated cybersecurity division called Telekom Security, wants to specifically address the energy supply sector.

“Critical infrastructures are being attacked more and more frequently. The latest example in Portugal unfortunately shows how cyberattacks can affect networked technology,” said Thomas Fetten, CEO of Telekom Security, in a statement on Thursday.

The example he cited refers to the outage that afflicted Vodafone Portugal’s 4G and 5G networks last week. The operator revealed (in Portuguese) it was the result of a deliberate and malicious cyberattack.

“Electricity is particularly important. A successful, precise attack on this area of critical infrastructure would cripple life as we know it. The economy, too,” Fetten said. “That’s why we’re pooling our expertise in fighting physical attacks, just as we do against attacks from virtual space.”

There have already been high-profile cyberattacks targeted at power grids. In Ukraine in 2015, hackers were able to cut power to 700,000 households for hours. In the UK in 2020, the internal IT systems of Elexon – which serves various stakeholders in the power supply and energy sectors – suffered a cyberattack that fortunately did not affect the grid. Last year, US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm warned that her government’s enemies have the capability to bring down the country’s power grid.

“We have a saying: the future is uncertain but electric. We are addressing climate change with renewable energy from the sun, water and wind. And are generating electricity in an increasingly decentralised way. This inevitably makes us more vulnerable to attack,” said Pierre-Alain Graf, head of Hitachi Energy’s global security business. “The partnership therefore extends the umbrella of protection to production technology.

By partnering with Hitachi and Securitas, Deutsche Telekom aims to ward off attacks by offering a combination of network security, operational technology security, and physical on-site security.

“Building a Fort Knox around solar farms and substations is not enough. Attackers shy away from robustly secured facilities. They move into cyberspace,” said Anders Gustavsson, head of remote video solutions at Securitas Services Europe.

No single player can protect networks, operational technology and physical sites all on their own, he continued. “That’s why we’re pooling our expertise.”

As more industries look to tap the capabilities of new technology like 5G, the more pressing need there is to secure these networks. According to ABI Research, the global market for 5G network security is expected to turn over $11.6 billion in 2026. By offering a more holistic approach to security via strategic partnerships – like those discussed by DT this week, telcos stand a better chance of grabbing a bigger share of that revenue.


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