Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power seeks almost $4.1M to fight cyberthreats

Nova Scotia Power filed a request with regulators Tuesday seeking permission to expand its security defences against hackers at a cost of about $4.1 million to ratepayers.

Province's electric utility says it needs to strengthen its security measures

The Nova Scotia Power headquarters is seen in Halifax on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia Power says it needs to spend about $4.1 million to fend off cyberattacks in the coming years.

The province's electric utility filed a request with regulators Tuesday seeking permission to expand its security defences against hackers.

"The increasing sophistication, frequency and scale of cyber-related incidents has created an immediate need for Nova Scotia Power to advance security countermeasures," the company wrote in its filing to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The utility wants to buy hardware and software to run a "security information event monitoring" tool for a security operations centre that will be run by an outside vendor.

The centre is supposed to identify real-time attacks and provide early warning to the company so it can shut down systems under attack, or install a software upgrade or configuration change to prevent continued access to a vulnerable device.

How to detect cyberthreats

The tool would use algorithms to identify potential threats and continuously analyze data from servers, network access points, connected devices and firewalls.

The company said the amount of data entered, generated and processed on its computer network that "must be analyzed to detect an in-progress attack is enormous," the company wrote in its filing, noting that a security operations centre was needed for this.

Nova Scotia Power says it has already put in place firewalls, conducted anti-phishing campaigns and educated staff about cyberthreats. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Nova Scotia Power spokesperson David Rodenhiser said the company is not responding to any specific incident.

"What we want is to ensure that we continue to protect the electrical grid and our confidential business and customer information from cyberthreats," he said.

The project cost is about $1.6 million more than originally expected.

Cost increase

Nova Scotia Power said the decision to upsize the budget — from $2,489,673 to $4,074,948 — was made after talking with potential vendors and taking a closer look at requirements like integrating the measures into the existing incident management system.

The vendor costs are not included in the updated price tag submitted to regulators, but Nova Scotia Power said a "hybrid approach" where it bought some infrastructure and contracted out services was cheaper than doing it all in-house.

Ratepayers will pay the cost on their bills.

The company said it has already put in place firewalls, conducted anti-phishing campaigns and educated staff about cyberthreats.

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Paul Withers

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Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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