DOE releases cyber procurement guidelines

The Energy Department has issued procurement guidelines for building cybersecurity protections into the design and manufacturing of energy delivery systems.

The Cybersecurity Procurement Language for Energy Delivery Systems, unveiled April 28, focuses on perceived vulnerabilities in the industry's procurement process, including in software use and the account management of energy delivery systems.

The latter category includes supervisory control and data acquisition systems and other automation tools that are becoming the norm as utilities modernize their grids. Many of those energy delivery systems "are configured with default accounts and passwords that are sometimes publicly available," the new guidelines state.

Defense and homeland security officials have warned in recent years that the U.S. power grid is susceptible to cyber and physical sabotage. In an October 2012 speech, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned that a nation-state or extremist group could "shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

A federal analysis found that knocking out just nine of the nation's 55,000 transmission substations could trigger a widespread blackout, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month.

The new DOE guidelines are not binding but are intended as baseline principles from which procurement contracts can be written. DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team helped produce the document.

"As we deploy advanced technologies to make the U.S. power grid more reliable and resilient, we must simultaneously advance cybersecurity protections," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.

The new guidelines will help the utility industry use the cybersecurity framework the Obama administration released in February to "address supply chain considerations," White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said.

DOE established a cybersecurity information-sharing program last year between government and the energy sector that makes a DOE-developed device for continuous monitoring available to organizations. Department officials said they expect 20 new organizations to join the program this year.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


  • Congress
    U.S. Capitol (Photo by M DOGAN / Shutterstock)

    Funding bill clears Congress, heads for president's desk

    The $1.3 trillion spending package passed the House of Representatives on March 22 and the Senate in the early hours of March 23. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, securing government funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

  • 2018 Fed 100

    The 2018 Federal 100

    This year's Fed 100 winners show just how much committed and talented individuals can accomplish in federal IT. Read their profiles to learn more!

  • Census
    How tech can save money for 2020 census

    Trump campaign taps census question as a fund-raising tool

    A fundraising email for the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is trying to get supporters behind a controversial change to the census -- asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.