US moves to protect power grid
US moves to protect power grid

The United States energy secretary has unveiled an initiative that seeks to further protect the power grid from cyber attacks.

Launched by Steven Chu, the Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Management Maturity project – a federal programme to find and contain gaps in the cyber security defences protecting the nation's electric grid – will be headed by the Department of Energy, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector. The programme originated from a proposal from the White House.

Chu said: “Establishing a comprehensive cyber security approach will give utility companies and grid operators another important tool to improve the grid's ability to respond to cyber security risks.”

The announcement follows the release of a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that suggested the US power grid could not be fully protected from cyber attacks and recommended that a single federal agency be put in charge of all cyber security.

White House cyber security co-ordinator Howard Schmidt said the intention was to develop a model to help 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,” he said.

“I was encouraged to see an impressive number of electric sector leaders participating and sharing their views with us. Their high level of interest in this new effort reaffirmed for me that these stakeholders share our desire to better understand the strengths and remaining gaps across the sector, so that together we can continue to take concrete steps to protect the electric grid from cyber threats.”