Thursday, May 5, 2011

Udall Pushes for Action to Protect Our Electric Grid from Cyber Attacks

Grid Could be Used in Cyber And/Or Physical Attacks on Military, Civilians

Today, in a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Mark Udall asked several government, industry and scientific officials about our nation’s readiness to respond to threats to our cybersecurity and critical electric infrastructure. There has been growing military and government concern that the nation’s electric grid could be used as a weapon to deliberately attack both civilian and military operations. The power system spans over 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, thousands of generating facilities and millions of digital controls, and continued upgrades to modernize the system open it up to new security concerns every day.

“This is a true challenge for us; it’s complicated,” Udall said. “The longer we delay, obviously, the more we may experience an incident that we will regret.”

In a discussion with Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman about the industry’s need for new technologies and a stronger workforce, Udall asked about forming a summit to get answers, saying, “My concern is that we continue to point fingers in every single direction and nothing’s really going to happen until we’re forced to react. That’s not the right position to be in.”

The hearing also featured a panel comprising Joseph McClelland, the director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Electric Reliability; Gerry Cauley, the president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation; David Owens, the executive vice president of Business Operations at Edison Electric Institute; and Bill Tedeschi, a Senior Scientist/Engineer at Sandia National Laboratories.