Defending America’s Electric Grid: Public-Private Collaboration is Key to Preparing for the Possibility of Cyberattacks

Electrical Overhead Powerlines can be seen from a distance. The sun is setting and there are a few white clouds. The John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has released “Resiliency for Grid Security Emergencies,” a new paper by Dr. Paul Stockton, the current Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Senior Fellow. This report centers on the U.S. electric grid, and its vulnerability to cyberattacks from Russia and other potential adversaries. This study especially focuses on how partnerships between the Department of Energy and power companies can produce effective coordinated operations when an attack is imminent or underway.

This timely report explores new authorities granted to the secretary of energy during a declared grid security emergency by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which amended the Federal Power Act. The secretary may “issue emergency orders to power companies to protect and restore grid reliability when attacks on their systems are ‘imminent’ or under way.” Dr. Stockton proposes drafting basic template orders that are adjustable to the specifics of an attack. These template orders would allow power companies and government officials to create detailed company-specific contingency plans to facilitate cooperation in the event of an attack.

Pre-planning industry and government responses to attacks also encourages stakeholders to begin to assess existing strengths and vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric system. In the future, emergency preparedness exercises and simulations can even build preparedness in new and unprecedented ways.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to infrastructure protection in our special featured topic Cyber Infrastructure Protection, and in our series National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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