Electric vehicle charging stations, a critical infrastructure to secure

What would happen if cybercriminals managed to compromise electric vehicle charging stations or, worse, the network that connects them together? The importance of securing charging networks and, more broadly, smart electricity networks will be discussed by Harm van den Brink, cybersecurity specialist in the field of electric vehicle infrastructure at ELAAD NL, during the next edition of the Luxembourg Internet Days.

October 16, 2023

On November 7 and 8, the Luxembourg Internet Days will have as their main theme the security and resilience of networks and in particular, critical infrastructures. At a time when energy management is increasingly based on connected infrastructures, it is important to ensure the security of so-called “smart” networks. While we are busy massively electrifying mobility with the adoption of electric vehicles, and the multiplication of public or domestic charging points, new risks are emerging. In fact, charging stations are most often connected and managed remotely. “The risk of compromise of these infrastructures or even the systems from which these electricity networks are managed is a serious threat, to which we must now provide responses,” explains Harm van den Brink.

Consequences on the physical World

To account for the consequences that such a compromise would have, this cybersecurity specialist in the field of electric vehicle infrastructure, within the dutch non-profit foundation ELAADNL, recalls the hacking of the Ukrainian electricity network in 2015, which plunged tens of thousands of people in the dark for a period of 1 to 6 hours. “We are talking here about cyberattacks which can have real consequences on the physical world, on the entire population,” continues the expert, who will speak on the subject during the Luxembourg Internet Days. Compromising charging networks could, for example, allow malicious actors to control the level of electrical charge sent to the network, destabilizing it and potentially putting users at risk. »

In this case, when we talk about securing electric vehicle charging stations, we are now talking about three vital infrastructures – Internet connectivity, energy and mobility – which are now interdependent. “From the moment these energy infrastructures are connected, to monitor loads remotely and enable user billing, they can potentially be attacked,” continues Harm van den Brink. To secure them, it is necessary to define a set of standards and best practices across the sector. »

Securing the Internet of energy

ELAAD NL, a knowledge and innovation center in the field of (smart) charging infrastructure in the Netherlands, has been working on these topics for several years and raising awareness among European operators, energy suppliers, of these issues. In the Netherlands, the foundation helped advice for regulations establishing a set of security requirements for charging infrastructure. “In this regard, the Netherlands has notably anticipated the new European NIS2 regulation, in particular with regard to the requirement imposed on operators to report any incident identified on the network, which is now already enforced via an update to the national legislation,” explains Harm van den Brink. In the energy sector, digitalization is accelerating. We are talking more and more about the Internet of energy, with decentralized production, an increase in flows and the multiplication of connected infrastructure elements. More than ever, network managers and distributors must better understand the risks and take the necessary measures to secure the entire electricity network across Europe. In this area, we need robust standards, guaranteeing that any connected infrastructure deployed in the public domain, particularly if it concerns energy, is secure. »

Harm van den Brink’s speech, precisely on the morning of November 8, will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the tenth edition of the Luxembourg Internet Days, these November 7 and 8 at the Chamber of Commerce. This will be an opportunity to discuss these issues and share good practices in order to respond to these new challenges of digital society.

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