Legislators Aim to Shield Grid with PROTECT
ID 81322115 © Peter Zeman | Dreamstime.com
- Dec 10, 2019 2:49 pm GMT
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Last Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee pushed through legislation that would invest $250 million into our grid’s cyber defense systems from 2020-2024. The bill, dubbed the Protecting Resources on the Electric Grid with Cyber security Technology (PROTECT), would make such funds possible through a federal grant program designed to help small utilities harden their cyber protection mechanisms. In addition to forking over cash, the program, headed by the Energy Department, would give recipients technical help in detecting, responding to and recovering from cyber breaches.
Joe Manchin, D-W.V., explained the reasoning behind PROTECT, saying: “Our electric grid is increasingly exposed to potentially devastating cyber and physical attacks … The PROTECT Act would create key incentives to expand utilization of advanced cyber security tools among our power generators to increase our security posture.”
The timing of this bill makes sense. In September of this year, news emerged that 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, utility pros, politicians, and even the general public have since come to realize the importance of protecting our grid from similar attacks.
In light of cyber threats, and just general blackouts, some entities have taken to installing microgrids. A couple weeks ago, I highlighted Fort Knox’s strenuous efforts to protect itself from power outages, both stemming from digital attacks and bad weather. I don’t suspect PROTECT will make places like Fort Knox reconsider their own security measures, but it’s good to hear our government is being proactive, nonetheless.