EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Most of the cybersecurity issues we’ve heard about in the past year have been tied to data breaches and data leaks. But another area in cybersecurity has far graver consequences, potentially: a disabling cyberattack on infrastructure or industrial control systems. To prevent such devastation, a nuclear research lab in Idaho–The Idaho National Laboratory–is sharpening its focus on cybersecurity.

In July, it was revealed that Russian hackers had infiltrated US electric utilities. But such attacks are nothing new. For instance, according to AP News, back in 2013, government-backed Iranian hackers reportedly accessed controls for a dam outside of New York City. The hackers, who have yet to be found, were not successful only because the dam was offline for maintenance. Critical infrastructure and industrial control systems are attractive to hackers because many were built during a time when cybersecurity was less on people’s radar. Plus, legacy systems are typically less secure.

As AP reports, “The U.S. is rushing to catch up with what cybersecurity experts say are threats by hackers to systems that operate energy pipelines, hydroelectric projects, drinking water systems and nuclear power plants across the country. Hackers opening valves, cutting power or manipulating traffic lights, for example, could have serious consequences.”

Making use of an 80,000-square-foot building,¬†an additional¬† computing center that is set to house one of the most powerful supercomputers in the country, and a workforce that its cybersecurity director describes as a “unique culture with brilliant minds,” Idaho National Lab is capable of breaking down computers to salvage wrecked storage drives and monitoring and safeguarding the electric grid and systems of Western utilities.

Even as the cybersecurity skills shortage lingers on, the Idaho National Lab is also busy innovating to troubleshoot the recruitment process, to bring up the next generation of cybersecurity experts.

It’s an interesting case study to see how an organization can transform itself to be a center of excellence in cybersecurity even when that’s not its primary mission.

Get the full story at AP News.