A new Cyber Attack Task Force to protect the power grid was announced by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). The task force of more than 40 volunteers will attempt to measure the impact a coordinated cyberattack would have on the U.S. power system.
After conducting an analysis and identifying vulnerabilities, the team will look for ways to strengthen the grid’s protection against such attacks, as well as its ability to withstand and recover from a cyberattack. They will also train staff to spot potential threats.
“This initiative will more thoroughly examine the potential impact of a targeted cyber attack and how the industry should best coordinate the preparedness and response actions of cyber security experts with power grid operators,” said Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of NERC.
The initiative is part of the Coordinated Action Plan developed through recommendations from a June 2010 report from NERC and the Department of Energy, “High Impact, Low Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System.”
“North America’s electricity infrastructure is clearly one of our society’s most important assets. As reliance on digital technology has increased, many North Americans have come to depend on the reliable delivery of electricity to their homes and businesses to power nearly every aspect of their lives,” states the report.
The report explains that the risk of a coordinated cyberattack against the U.S. power system “has become more acute over the past 15 years as digital communicating equipment has introduced cyber vulnerability to the system…”
It adds, “The specific concern with respect to these threats is the targeting of multiple key nodes on the system that, if damaged, destroyed, or interrupted in a coordinated fashion, could bring the system outside the protection provided by traditional planning and operating criteria.”
The report spurred several other task forces into motion, including the Disturbance Task Force, the Spare Equipment Database Task Force, the Severe Impact Resilience Task Force, and the Smart Grid Task Force, according to a NERC press release.