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Innovating to Meet the Evolving Cyber Challenge

September 19, 2013 - 12:02pm

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Innovating to Meet the Evolving Cyber Challenge

Keeping the power flowing is vital to America’s economy and security, as well as many of the ordinary and extraordinary things that people across the nation do every day. Protecting the critical energy infrastructure that makes all of that possible is crucial -- and is a top priority for the President and the Energy Department.  

Another element in today’s landscape is the increased focus on cybersecurity in the electric grid and oil and gas infrastructure. Protecting our energy infrastructure from cyber events is a complex challenge that requires strategic and pragmatic action on multiple fronts. Over the years, the Energy Department has worked closely with federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector on numerous cybersecurity initiatives. Strong public-private partnerships are vitally important.  

At the heart of our cybersecurity work is the Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity, a strategy developed by the Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) and the Energy Sector Control Systems Working Group. The Roadmap has a clear vision: Design, install, operate and maintain resilient energy delivery systems that can survive a cyber incident while sustaining critical functions.

The breadth of the Energy Department’s cybersecurity work is wide. OE’s Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) program, for example, supports the research, development and commercialization of new technologies. Since 2010, the Department has invested more than $100 million in cybersecurity R&D through awards and funding provided to industry, universities and national labs. A number of those projects, such as Padlock -- which helps electric utilities make distribution automation more secure -- have already been commercialized. Originally scheduled for commercial release this year, Padlock was so much in demand by the energy sector that it was released a year early.

Another DOE-funded project, Secure Information Exchange Gateway for Electric Grid Operations (SIEGate), has developed a more secure way for utilities to exchange crucial real-time information that’s used to assure the reliability of the bulk electric system. SIEGate, which provides a unified secure communications mechanism, includes an open source commercialization strategy that will encourage adoption and deployment by the electric sector.

Our ongoing commitment is also reflected in other ways, such as working closely with the White House and our federal and industry partners to spearhead the development of a tool that is now being used by the electricity industry and the oil and gas sector to improve their own cybersecurity, and our collaboration with industry to develop a risk management process.  

Cybersecurity is also a priority for our Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) projects. All SGIG recipients -- electric utilities, co-ops and munis across the U.S. that received $3.4 billion in funding from the Energy Department to accelerate modernization of the nation’s electric grid -- were required to develop cybersecurity plans that explained how they would identify and mitigate cybersecurity risk, and how their processes would ensure that a sufficient cyber posture is maintained.

The most recent example of the Department’s commitment to cybersecurity is this week’s announcement of more than $30 million in awards to cutting-edge energy sector stakeholders in seven states across the U.S. This funding will help drive the development of new technologies that will help utilities and the oil and gas sector further strengthen protection of their assets from cyber incidents.   

The investments we make in cybersecurity have cross-cutting benefits that also help us better prepare to deal with a changing climate. As we have seen in recent events and analysis, such as the Energy Department’s U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather report, the impact of climate change on the nation’s energy sector is significant. The President’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for reducing the effects of climate change and increasing the production of clean energy, emphasizes adaptation and resiliency. Adapting to change now will help us be better prepared to meet this challenge. 

Change is inevitable. To continue adapting and meeting the challenges of today’s evolving cyber challenges, we must continue investing in new, innovative technologies that will help the energy sector stay ahead of what’s next.   

To learn more about DOE’s efforts to ensure a resilient, reliable and flexible electricity system, visit the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s website.

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