Clinton calls for sweeping power grid upgrades

Clinton calls for sweeping power grid upgrades
© Getty Images

Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonArmed man arrested at DC pizzeria targeted by conspiracy theory Clinton opponents vow to continue their pursuit ExxonMobil CEO, retired admiral will meet with Trump about State: report MORE is calling for power grid upgrades to increase cybersecurity, the Democratic presidential front-runner revealed in a sweeping energy infrastructure policy statement released Wednesday.

“Our electrical grid needs upgrading to harness new technology that reduces energy costs and increases consumer choice, and to address the growing threat of cyberattack,” Clinton said.

Her plan calls for the creation of a new presidential team that would coordinate threat assessment and response efforts between federal agencies and the power industry.

ADVERTISEMENT
Clinton's plan also calls for boosting the digital defenses of “clean energy” technologies, part of an overall strategy of grid modernization, as well as providing resources to local communities to improve grid resilience.

Clinton’s plan comes amid growing concerns of power grid vulnerability.

Earlier this month, federal documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that hackers infiltrated the Department of Energy's (DOE) computer system more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014.

As the department overseeing the country's power grid and nuclear weapons stockpile, the DOE is an attractive target for overseas cyber spies seeking to uncover vulnerabilities.

A 2013 oversight report noted “unclear lines of responsibility” for cybersecurity within the DOE, as well as a “lack of awareness by responsible officials.”

Experts say critical infrastructure sites are increasingly at risk as electric grids get “smarter.”

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told lawmakers last fall that China and “one or two” other countries would be able to shut down portions of critical U.S. infrastructure with a cyberattack. Researchers suspect Iran to be on that list.

The U.S. and China are reportedly working on an agreement under which neither country will be the first to launch cyberattacks on the other’s critical infrastructure, such as power grids or cellphone networks, during peacetime.

In November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned that “numerous” critical industries might have been compromised by hackers from Russia, though officials said they did not see any attempts to “damage, modify, or otherwise disrupt” any networks. Researchers say the country is testing U.S. networks for vulnerabilities.

Senate Democrats have been campaigning for more funding to protect the electrical grid from hackers, part of an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill that has divided lawmakers on partisan lines.

“The reality is that this is a system that is not as well protected as it should be,” Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichOvernight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails Intel Dems push for info on Russia and election be declassified Senate Dems push Obama for info on Russian election interference MORE (D-N.M.) told reporters in a July conference call. “This is a grid that evolved over 100 years and much of it is based on fairly simple technology.”

DHS has also moved to shore up grid defenses, in August announcing the creation of a new committee tasked with identifying how well the department’s “lifeline sectors” are prepared to meet threats and recover from a “significant cyber event.”

“There is a great deal that has been done and is being done now to secure our networks,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House Judiciary Committee in July. “There is more to do."