Risk of cyberattack on US power grid ‘palpable,’ experts tell Congress

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A warning issued during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday said the potential for a major cyberattack against the nation’s power grid is “at an all time high,” reports FuelFix.

Gerry Cauley, president of the grid operators group North American Electric Reliability Corporation, testified during the hearing. Cauley noted that hackers had yet to shut down the U.S. power grid, but he referenced a 2015 attack that cut power to 225,000 customers in Ukraine.

“We will never be complacent. The risk is very real,” he said.

Tuesday’s hearing was part of a long-term effort to increase security for the nation’s power plants to prevent cyberattacks akin to the ones that have recently struck Europe. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently awarded BAE Systems a contract under the Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems (RADICS) program to develop technology that will enable power to be quickly restored following a cyberattack.

Per Patricia Hoffman, acting assistant secretary at the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the department is working on “an ecosystem of resilience.”

Senior cyber and energy strategist at Idaho National Laboratory, Andrew Bochman, testified that the presence of automated technology is enabling hackers to develop more paths on which to attack.

“Cyber risk futurists, myself included, are experiencing a palpable sense of foreboding,” Bochman said during his testimony.

A bill to pave the way for replacing some automated systems with manual ones has recently gained support in the Senate.