The Biden administration is taking steps to protect the country’s electricity system from cyberattacks through a new 100-day initiative combining federal government agencies and private industry players.
The initiative was announced by the Energy Department. It encourages owners and operators of power plants and electric utilities to improve their capabilities for identifying cyber threats to their networks. It includes concrete milestones for them to put technologies into use so they can spot and respond to intrusions in real time.
The department is also calling electric utilities, energy companies, government agencies to provide their recommendations on how to safeguard the energy system supply chain.
Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council specified in a statement: “Partnerships like these are essential to addressing the urgent cybersecurity challenge.” It is especially important taking into account that the critical infrastructure is run by the private sector.
This month Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, gave an interview to the Associated Press where she specified that the administration was taking new steps to protect electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries against potentially damaging cyberattacks.
A Government Accountability Office report last month found that the U.S. grid’s distribution systems, which transport electricity from transmission systems to consumers, are increasingly at risk: hackers can use multiple techniques to obtain access, including compromising the supply chain by manipulating software or hardware or exploiting virtual private network connections.
The most notable cyberattack on an electric supply in recent years was attributed to Russia and knocked parts of Ukraine’s power grid offline in 2015 and 2016. The Justice Department last October charged six Russian hackers, all suspected military intelligence officers, in connection with that attack and a spate of others.
In her statement regarding the new effort Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm noted that the U.S. experiences a well-documented and increasing cyber threat from malicious actors seeking to disrupt the electricity Americans rely on to power homes and businesses.