Late last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that hackers were infiltrating "oil and natural gas pipelines and electric power organizations at an alarming rate." The agency said it knew of 198 such "cyber-incidents" just last year.
Security specialists say many utility companies have done little to guard their operations against hackers despite years of prodding.
"They just want to kind of pretend the problem doesn't exist," said Dale Peterson, CEO of Digital Bond, which assesses security at utilities and other firms. "So it might take some really tragic thing with some huge disruption of peoples' lives before something gets done."