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verizon-logo-470x3101Verizon is already eying opportunities to provide wireless networks for Smart Grid communication systems, but today it’s expanding its presence in the space even more with the launch of a security consulting service for utilities rolling out smart meters and other advanced grid infrastructure.

Security is one of the foremost concerns as utilities and other companies work on building a cleaner, more efficient grid. With so much energy consumption data flying by on wireless networks, it seems almost too easy for people to hack in and disrupt service. Contracting a computer virus is one thing — a virus that can take out power for whole city blocks is something entirely different, and far more disconcerting.

The worry isn’t for nothing either. Wired magazine reported earlier this month that the Information Trust Institute at the University of Illinois received an $18.8 million grant for a five-year investigation of Smart Grid cybersecurity. The research group successfully took out power in 15,000 homes for a full day with a digital worm — that certainly proved a point.

Verizon’s goal in launching this new consulting branch is to help utilities protect against such instances before they happen. In order to do so, it will be working with major energy vendors to make sure they are in compliance with 2010 requirements published by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. Utilities certified by NERC will also be subject to random audits to make sure no cracks have appeared in their systems.

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Verizon is bringing cybersecurity expertise earned in the mobile space to its new utility clients. The energy services will be folded into the company’s broader portfolio of security consulting offerings, which it has long provided to literally hundreds of clients. It says it will charge anywhere between $50,000 to $200,000 to work with utilities.

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