The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Power Grid Needs a Cybersecurity Boost: Bipartisan Policy Center Report Finds Weaknesses in U.S. Critical Infrastructure Protection

Transmission LinesIn February, the Co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, together with the National Homeland Security Project, published a report of findings on the security status of the nation's electricity infrastructure. Protecting this power grid from cyber attacks is critical to national security in an environment where the number of cyber attacks on infrastructure is increasing daily. The report outlines the areas in which agencies can minimize the negative consequences of a successful attack.

The report covers four topics: identifying standards and best practices in energy infrastructure, sharing information across agencies, responding to cyber attacks, and paying for cybersecurity. The report's recommendations are directed at Congress, federal government agencies, state public utilities commissions, and industry executives.

The current standards and practices include some cybersecurity measures, but these protections are not as robust as similar protections are in other elements of critical infrastructure. The report emphasizes the Department of Homeland Security's role in coordinating information-sharing with state and municipal governments. Specifically, an effort to standardize response protocols and responsibilities of law enforcement in the event of a cyber attack is key to improving nationwide proficiency in cyber defense.

The collective plan does come at a high cost, with U.S. utilities expected to spend $7 billion on cybersecurity by the year 2020; an investment that will require support on all levels of government. The greater cost, however, would be the catastrophic failure of the power grid due to cyber attacks. Implementing improved cybersecurity for the power grid will certainly be of interest to legislators and budget-makers alike, now and in the future.

For more information on infrastructure protection, go to the HSDL featured topic on Energy Security, or browse a selection of documents below:

Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013 (CISPA)

The DHS Cybersecurity Mission: Promoting Innovation and Securing Critical Infrastructure