NGCP to lawmakers: Power grid safe from hacking

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — The country's grid operator on Wednesday assured lawmakers that the system has safeguards from possible disruption by external entities.

The NGCP made the remark amid fears of hacking, like what happened in Ukraine in 2015.

"Ang NGCP, standalone yung SO (system operations) natin. Hindi po nakakabit sa internet yung operating network natin sa SO. Kaya yung nangyari sa Ukraine, hindi po mangyayari dito. Protected po kami among others by an air gap," said NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza in a Senate hearing.

[Translation: At the NGCP, our system operations are standard. Our operating network for the SO is not connected to the internet. So what happened to Ukraine before will not happen to us. We are protected by an air gap.]

According to think tank Council on Foreign Relations, around 230,000 people suffered in December 2015 after a "threat actor compromised distribution companies in western Ukraine... Several control centers were targeted by suspected Russian hackers, who were able to siphon operator credentials and gain access to the power grid...."

NGCP operates the grid assets owned by the government through the National Transmission Company.

In last week's hearing, some senators were unconvinced that it was impossible for Beijing to penetrate the energy system, given that 40% of NGCP is owned by China's State Grid Corporation. The majority stake is owned by the investment company of businessmen Henry Sy Jr. and Robert Coyiuto Jr., Synergy Grid & Development Philippines Inc.

On the other hand, Alabanza added that the NGCP passed the vulnerability assessment and penetration test of the Energy Regulation Commission.

Senate Committee on Energy chair Raffy Tulfo was still not convinced.

"I would still stand by what I've heard and what I believe na meron pa rin talagang capability ang China na kung gusto nila remotely na makaka-access sa ating national grid," he said.

[Translation: I would still stand by what I've heard and what I believe that China still has the capability to remotely access our national grid.]

Alabanza stressed that the only Chinese nationals in the country connected to the NGCP are three board members.