US power grid gets better cyber defenses thanks to new initiative

In an effort to strengthen and protect the nation’s electrical grid from hackers, the White House is launching an initiative with the private sector to develop a “maturity model” that allows utility companies to assess their current capabilities and analyze vulnerabilities.

Led by the departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Management Maturity project blends industry and government expertise to expand on current cybersecurity measures and strategies.

Related story:

Analysis: Cybersecurity puzzle is a tough one to solve

The project will focus on performance-based strategies and concrete steps to measure progress of cybersecurity in the electric sector, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said in a Jan. 5 statement.

“It is important to understand the sector’s strengths and remaining gaps across the grid to inform investment planning and research and development, and enhance our public-private partnership efforts,” he added.

The Energy Department will host workshops with industry over the next months to draft a maturity model that can be used across the electric sector. More than a dozen electric utilities and grid operators are expected to test the model, gauge its effectiveness and validate results. The pilot will also be the jumping-off point to developing a risk management maturity model, which will be available to the electric sector later this summer.

A December 2011 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology highlighted the importance of federal agencies working with industry to safeguard the electric grid. Although MIT researchers said the power grid is resilient, a number of serious challenges over the next two decades will require that the government takes action now.   

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Wed, Jan 11, 2012

Maybe utilizing "legacy" technology that no one knows how to hack (i.e.X.25) isn't such a bad idea too...

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 Mainframe Dinosaur

Whatever happened to that "best practices" idea of an air-break between the public and critical systems? Oh, I forgot, PCs and the internet are so much better at everything that they don't need such dinosaur ideas as security, and reliability.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group