April 01, 2018 Feature

Cybersecurity and the Electric Grid

By Latif M. Nurani

In March 2018, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint report describing a Russian government cyber activity targeting America’s critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and manufacturing sectors. Most media reports ignored the threats to other critical infrastructure industries and focused exclusively on the threat to our electric system, with sensational headlines like “Russia Hacked U.S. Power Grid” and “Russian Hackers Are Attacking U.S. Power Plants.” The Department of Homeland Security has identified sixteen critical infrastructure sectors whose assets are considered vital to national security, the economy, or public health and safety; the electricity industry is only a subsector within the energy sector. Yet cyber threats to the power grid garner the lion’s share of attention from the media, lawmakers, and the public. And the implication is always clear: we need to do more to protect the grid from hackers.

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