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Utility commissioners briefed on recs to boost security

Protect Our Power Logo (PRNewsfoto/Protect Our Power)

Protect Our Power Logo (PRNewsfoto/Protect Our Power)

State utility commissions can strengthen the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure – particularly the electric grid – by advancing several relevant recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission report released last month, utility commissioners were told in a webinar in April.

Two of the Solarium Commission’s members – Southern Company Chairman, CEO and President Tom Fanning and former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis – briefed utility commissioners on the report’s key pillars during the webinar. The event was co-sponsored by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the not-for-profit Protect Our Power organization.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was established by Congress to “develop a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against cyber attacks of significant consequences.” The finished report, consisting of more than 80 recommendations organized into six key pillars, was presented to the public on March 11. The full report is at https://www.solarium.gov.

“The battles of the future will be fought on our nation’s energy infrastructure, telecommunication networks and financial systems,” said Fanning. “The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was created to reimagine military doctrine for this new digital reality. Fully 87 percent of the critical infrastructure in the U.S. is owned by private industry, making the collaboration between the private sector and government in protecting our American way of life that much more vital.”

Fanning also co-chairs the Electric Sector Coordinating Council, which serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry, with the mission of coordinating efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level disasters or threats to critical infrastructure.

The six key pillars of the Solarium Commission report are:

  1. Reform the U.S. government’s structure and organization for cyberspace.
  2. Strengthen norms and non-military tools.
  3. Promote national resilience.
  4. Reshape the cyber ecosystem.
  5. Operationalize eybersecurity collaboration with the private sector.
  6. Preserve and employ the military instrument of national power.

Two recommendations on pages 4 and 5 of the report make clear the critical need for a more resilient electric grid by calling for actions to protect “critical functions” that are dependent upon a reliable power supply:

  1. Congress should direct the U.S. government to develop and maintain Continuity-of-the-Economy-planning in consultation with the private sector to ensure continuous operation of critical functions of the economy in the event of a significant cyber disruption.
  2. Congress should codify the concept of “systemically important critical infrastructure,” whereby entities responsible for systems and assets that underpin national critical functions are ensured of the full support of the U.S. government and shoulder additional security requirements befitting their unique status and importance.