House probes cyber threats to power grid

House probes cyber threats to power grid
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House members are raising concerns about the vulnerability of the nation’s infrastructure to crippling cyber attacks.

Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a joint hearing Wednesday to assess the energy industry’s preparedness for potential attacks.

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“We’re all familiar with the increasing frequency of cyber attacks that compromise business and personal information,” said Rep. Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne BonamiciGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Dems to Mattis: Don't delay transgender enlistment policy Washingtonians take center stage at Will on the Hill MORE (D-Ore.).

“What we’re focusing on today is a different kind of cybersecurity, it’s about securing the electric grid,” she added. “So that a cyber attack doesn’t affect grid operations, which could halt our daily lives, threaten our economic security.”

While cyber espionage has been in the spotlight due to recent attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Office of Personnel Management, the subcommittee members said cyber threats to infrastructure could be more destructive.

There hasn’t been a case in the United States of hackers shutting down grid operations, but ederal documents obtained by USA Today in September showed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) computers had been hacked over 150 times between 2010 and 2014.

Senate Democrats have also sought to call attention to the issue in recent months after they accused Republicans of hamstringing cybersecurity efforts with a budget proposal they say cuts $11 million from programs safeguarding energy grids.

Bennet Gaines, the chief information officer at FirstEnergy Service Company, called for more sophisticated efforts to respond to attacks during his testimony.

He suggested implementing a system that would share real-time information on cyberattacks with the rest of the industry as well as the government.

“One of the difficulties that we have in the industry is the information we get from the federal government is not timely,” he said. “And so for us to take action on something that really we have no control over is very difficult.”

His comments come as the Senate is preparing to vote on a bill that would boost cyber sharing of threat information between the government and businesses.