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Cyber Security Risks Force Entities to Take Action

image credit: ID 95227333 © Charmnanvudh Vancharoen | Dreamstime.com

In September of this year, the utility industry was hit with some disturbing news: Our grid had been the victim of an unprecedented cyber attack. The incident occurred on March 5th and the victim was an undisclosed utility with operations in California, Utah and Wyoming. The attack struck web portals for the utilities firewalls, and the hacker (if it was a person) might not have even realized that the online interfaces were connected to a utility. Luckily, no power generation was lost. However, utilities were now on notice: Cyber threats are real and the United States of America isn’t immune to them. 

Utilities and federal agencies have been at work ever since working to buttress our country’s grid security systems. NERC spokeswoman Kimberly Mielcarek commented on the issue in an interview with E&E News, saying: "Lessons learned are an anonymized resource that identifies the lessons and contains sufficient information to understand the issues, and show the desired outcome." NERC has encouraged utilities to add extra defenses beyond firewalls.

Hopefully, our utilities and related government departments are up to the task of keeping grids safe against malicious hackers and bots. Yet many private businesses, homeowners, and government operations have decided not to take any chances. Such actors are developing and implementing back up energy systems in case the grids on which they rely ever go down. 

Take Fort Knox, for example. The legendary Army post just recently finished up a $60 million dollar project to make themselves off-the-grid capable. The work actually began in 2009 in response to an ice storm that had knocked out the base’s electricity. However, asked to speak on the autonomous generating capacity by a reporter from a local news channel, Major General John Evans explained that it was intended to defend against more than just natural disasters: “We learned a lesson in 2009. What we said was we could have a similar crisis in the future or something more significant; perhaps someone attacking our power grid or attacking our cyber infrastructure that could shut down power.”

It makes sense for people to take precautions regarding the power they depend on—especially the military—but let’s hope they’re moves prove unnecessary moving forward. 

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