By Brian Krebs
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
April 29, 2009
Key lawmakers in the House and Senate are seeking to grant federal
regulators new powers to protect the U.S. power grid in the face of an
imminent or actual cyber attack on the nation's electric infrastructure.
The proposal would grant the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
authority to require companies that own and operate critical portions of
the power grid to take emergency actions to mitigate a specific cyber
threat against power generation equipment or the communications networks
that support those systems. With the exception of publicly owned
utilities, industry compliance with warnings or advisories issued by
FERC currently is voluntary.
"Any failure of our electric grid, whether intentional or unintentional,
would have a significant and potentially devastating impact on our
nation," said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson
(D-Miss.), who is expected to introduce the measure Thursday along with
the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman
Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). "We must ensure that the proper protections,
resources and regulatory authorities are in place to address any threat
aimed at our power system."
The vulnerability of the nation's electrical grid to computer attack has
grown as power companies have transferred control of their electrical
generation and distribution equipment from private, internal networks to
supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems that can be
accessed through the Internet or by phone lines, according to
consultants and government reports. That technology has led to greater
efficiency because it allows workers to operate equipment remotely.
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