'Rip and replace' strategy for U.S. bulk power systems

Department of Energy officials say they plan to use a recent executive order to tear out foreign-made parts and components if they believe they pose a national security or economic risk.

By Iren Moroz shutterstock ID 566799760
 

Department of Energy officials say they plan to use a recent Executive Order on securing U.S. bulk power systems to tear out foreign-made parts and components if they believe they pose a national security or economic risk.

In May, the White House issued an executive order declaring foreign cybersecurity threats to bulk electric power systems to be a national emergency. One of the initiatives created through the order will be a federal task force charged with developing energy infrastructure procurement policies and procedures for federal agencies. It will also work with industrial groups to develop similar criteria for how to legally purchase bulk-power equipment from foreign providers.

The section has drawn comparisons to "rip and replace" efforts undertaken by the U.S. government and industry for Chinese-based Huawei telecommunications equipment as well as the removal of anti-virus software made by Russian-based Kaspersky Lab from government systems. During a web event hosted by the McCrary Institute at Auburn University, Energy officials made it clear they were eyeing a similar strategy for the energy sector.

"We will be looking at identifying equipment, isolating it, monitoring it as appropriate, and where we find undue risk to the bulk power system, we will replace equipment as necessary," said Charles Kosak, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity at Energy.

Sean Plankey, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) at Energy, said his office will also look to better engage with the roughly 4,000 smaller electric carriers, last mile providers and distribution providers spread out across the United States, many of whom are stretched thin and plagued by lack of money or human resources.

"None of them are big business, a lot of them…are run by taxpayers in a municipality type of environment, and many of those [entities] in fact also own the water," said Plankey.

Those small organizations are often ill-prepared to defend their systems and networks against foreign military or intelligence services. In some cases, Plankey said their systems can be connected to other critical infrastructure and rely on the same personnel, equipment and manufacturers, creating a single point of failure.

The Energy Department is spending $6 million this year to boost support for rural and municipal utility cooperatives. They're also sharing research and development and supply chain information with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop better security models for cities and towns where their energy and water infrastructure overlap. Energy officials must also deal with the budget reality that many smaller towns and companies face, particularly in the wake of a pandemic and recession that has wrought havoc on state and local budgets. That means cybersecurity employees might be overstretched and wearing several different hats at the same time.

"Cybersecurity is not a profit generator in an electricity energy provider company. No, it's a cost, and a lot of times when you think about the municipalities -- and no disrespect intended -- they're just smaller entities," Plankey said. "A lot of times the IT guy is also the security guy is also the guy who might be mowing the front lawn. That's just the way it is. On the one hand, you have someone who has total love and ownership of what he's working on. on the other hand, you're forced to be a Jack of All Trades."

Other federal agencies, like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, have worried about the rising convergence of Information Technology systems with the Operational Technology systems required to physically control engines, conveyers and other machines within critical infrastructure. In addition to providing support for IT officials and CISOs, Plankey said his office was also trying to engage more with non-tech executives in the C-Suite to ensure they understand that while connecting the two environments may save a few dollars on the front end, it also makes their entire enterprise more vulnerable if they're compromised by hackers.

"It's going to be a necessity to understand that interplay, to understand where your protocol handoffs are, to understand why you might want to connect your IT environment," he said. "Because you have your CFO and your business players on one side thinking 'I can do this faster and cheaper if I connect my IT systems so I can draw efficiencies from my industrial control system environment' but then you have your security aspect, which is slower and make things harder, so those things don't always agree."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.