Jun 30–In the United States, a number of electric utilities groups have either obtained improved cyber security technologies or pledge to do so. Grid security represents a critical security priority for the White House.
Grid security, in-depth
Nearly 50% of US electric utility groups either have or will implement sensor-based systems, which will facilitate improved detection and prevention of cyber threats. This comes as part of a 100-day sprint to enhance security for a wide swath of US infrastructure components; from fuel pipelines to water plants.
“We started with the electric utility sector for the obvious reason that power impacts all of our lives,” stated Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.
Improved visibility and data analytics tools can keep hackers at bay. They function to stop cyber attacks from disrupting day-to-day business operations.
IT vs. OT systems
In the past few years, the IT (virtual systems) and OT (physical systems) have come together as unified operations. However, organizations that have blurred the IT/OT line may or may not have invested in cyber security along the way.
In April, the Biden administration advocated for electric utilities groups to ensure that monitoring tools were in place. This is part of a broader effort to improve grid security. The Energy Department and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) selected 250 “priority entities” with whom they would pilot a new security-focused program.
Of the 250 organizations selected, 121 have deployed requested technologies or intend to. This roster of utility groups “include[s] the vast majority of the big utilities,” stated Neuberger. The number of organizations that had installed such monitoring tools ahead of the Biden administration’s request remains unknown.
The technology adoption initiative launched by the White House is specifically targeting organizations like those that belong to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, who retain more than 50,000 customers.
Limiting costs, grid security
Organizations that are apart of cooperatives, such as the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, are not-for-profit entities. As such, they lack the financial resources to invest in extremely costly cyber security programs. Federal officials state that they aim to limit grid security improvement costs.
US officials are pumping more federal funding into cyber security for both the public and private sector. Earlier this year, President Biden signed an executive order designed to help the Transportation Security Administration easily improve their security infrastructure.
Cyber attacks, real-world damage
In recent months, nations around the globe have felt the real-world impact of cyber threats. The Colonial-Pipeline attack caused immediate damage to the US economy, and the JBS Foods incident threatened the food supply chain across multiple borders. Lengthy recovery processes and supply chain disruptions cannot continue, especially among major industry players.
The White House will continue to push for cyber security reforms, as through legislation such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. This potential piece of legislation, announced last week, was developed by a group of ten US senators; five democrats and five republicans.
For more information about the White House’s cyber security guidelines and initiatives, click here.