Solutions Series Roundtable: Cybersecurity

On Thursday, November 2nd Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss cybersecurity, and how America’s electric grid can be secured against cyberattacks. The conversation focused on how Congress can support private sector utility providers who are the first line of defense against cyberattacks targeting America’s electric grid.

Cybersecurity and the Electric Grid 

Cybersecurity has risen to the forefront of America’s national and homeland security concerns in the 21st century.  High profile cyberattacks have successfully penetrated networks used by government and operators of critical infrastructure. All 16 sectors of America’s critical infrastructure depend on a stable electric grid – making it a prime target for would be hackers. The Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review claims that America’s electric grid is in “imminent danger” of a cyberattack, and that a significant outage would undermine critical defense infrastructure, and endanger the health and safety of millions of Americans.

Key Details

Relevant Incidents

  • 2015
    • Russian hackers use “crash override” malware to disable Ukraine’s electric grid
  • 2016
    • Russian hackers disable Kiev’s electric grid
    • Burlington Electric detects Russian group Grizzly Steppe’s malware on network
  • 2017
    • Wolf Creek nuclear plant detects cyber-attacks mimicking Russian group Energetic Bear
    • FireEye claims DPRK hackers targeted electric power companies with spearphishing emails
    • Symantec reveals that Dragonfly hack group gained “operational access” to industrial control systems of US power providers

US Electric Grid Structure

  • 3,300 separate utility operators
  • 200,000 miles of transmission lines
  • 55,000 power substations
  • 5 million miles of distribution lines
  • Tens of thousands of large power transformers
  • LPTs cost millions of dollars each and take up to 2 years to build