Government Turns Its Attention to Protecting the Power Grid

Sue Marquette Poremba
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Anyone who remembers an August night about 10 years ago when the lights went out from New York City to Cleveland understands that the power grid in the United States needs to be strengthened. Malware like Stuxnet and Duqu have shown that the technology is being developed to attack the power grid. Let's face it, the power grid puts the entire nation at risk.


In its attempts to improve cybersecurity, the federal government announced this week a plan to better protect the power grid from a cyber attack. The new initiative, the Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Maturity Model Pilot, is a joint effort between the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and private industry. According to the White House blog, the initiative's goal is:

... to develop a model to help us identify how secure the electric grid is from cyber threats and test that model with participating utilities. Gaining knowledge about strengths and remaining gaps across the grid will better inform investment planning and research and development, and enhance our public-private partnership efforts.

In the coming months, DOE will host a number of workshops with private companies to draft a cybersecurity model for energy industry, which will then be tested by a dozen or so electric utilities.


This is exciting news. Granted, while I think that cybersecurity is only one of many components for protecting and improving the power grid, it is a vital one. As I pointed out before, security research shows variants of Stuxnet are out there already. Information Week added:

Hackers now are designing threats to explicitly attack control systems, which has not only the feds but other government leaders around the world on alert about how to protect these critical systems.

The power grid could be the front line of cyber warfare. Government probably should have been focusing on cybersecurity for the power grid long before this, but this is a step in the right direction.

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