How the federal government is working to secure our energy infrastructure

By Jessica Parks, market intelligence analyst

In a previous blog post, immixGroup Supplier Manager Derek Giarratana elaborated on the constant threat of ransomware and how the public sector can address it. Ransomware is one of the significant threats facing American energy infrastructure, as the Colonial pipeline incident has shown.

Federal agencies such as the Department of Energy are spearheading efforts to tackle not just ransomware, but other cyber threats that can jeopardize the safe functioning of energy delivery systems.

Here are three of DOE’s top priorities for securing energy infrastructure:

(1) Monitoring and analytics

Monitoring the grid (the entire network of generators involved in delivering power) and making sense of the data they produce is crucial. Many of the national labs under DOE are working to improve current processes. Labs such as Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the National Energy Technology Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Lab have been particularly active in developing solutions to automate grid monitoring, applying predictive analytics to anticipate future cyber events and modeling complex grid infrastructures.

In addition to machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions and modeling and simulation tools, also consider that the scientists conducting this important research need additional tools to support their activities. Think workflow and project management tools, change management solutions and secure data management solutions, to name a few.

(2) Recovery and resilience

Cyber threats are constant and ensuring a quick recovery and containing the damage after an attack are also critical parts of the federal cyber strategy. Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are two labs with several active projects focused on enhancing the resilience and recovery of electricity grids.

Analytics, mentioned above, can help make systems more resilient by providing more actionable information that enables operators to get ahead of potential threats. Thus, there’s room here for analytical solutions – especially those that can get as close as possible to processing data in real time. And as energy providers turn to cloud technology to help them manage the grid, cloud security solutions are vital to shoring up these systems against attacks.

(3) Supply chain security

In the 100-day plan for energy cybersecurity recently released by the Biden administration, a top priority is ensuring supply chain security in the energy delivery system, which has also been a concern for renewable energy objects like solar panels. This is a more strategic goal that is still taking shape and DOE is currently soliciting ideas from the energy industry and research institutions as to how this can be accomplished. This will help shape the future of research around securing energy grids and identify what kinds of solutions will be required.

It’s also worth noting that the 100-day plan is a shared effort between DOE, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and the electricity industry, so there may be room for secure information-sharing solutions to support collaboration in this research.

Long before the recent Colonial pipeline ransomware attack the federal government sought to address vulnerabilities in the nation’s energy infrastructure. However, those issues have now been thrown into sharp relief. You can bet developing innovative methods for securing critical infrastructure will be at the top of the list for the Department of Energy for a long time.

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About Jessica Parks
Jessica Parks is an analyst with the Market Intelligence team at immixGroup, providing actionable analysis to help technology suppliers shorten their sales cycles. She holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. in political science from UNC Chapel Hill.

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