Threat of Cyber Attack Keeps One UK Energy Executive Awake at Night

Imagining the fallout from a successful computer hack is keeping one British energy executive awake at night.

“An attack could be enough to destroy a business if it’s not handled properly,” Michael Lewis, chief executive officer of EON SE’s U.K. subsidiary, told delegates at Bloomberg’s Breakaway conference in London.

Protecting itself and its 6.5 million business and domestic customers across Europe is a major issue for Essen, Germany-based EON, he said at the event for company founders and CEOs. The utility has several layers of protection including training staff to be suspicious.

Most countries classify energy assets such as gas pipelines and power cables as critical infrastructure, with their cyber safety now as important as physical security. Utilities are seen as a target because of the potential disruption a power cut would cause to millions of people. Most companies refuse to publish any information on attacks in case of its use to would-be hackers.

“We have periodically been subject to probes from phishing expeditions,” Lewis said. Prevention is of “critical importance for companies in the business of information and which have large amounts of clients.”