DHS: 40 percent of cyberattacks targeted energy sector

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The administration began designing the order when congressional efforts to pass cybersecurity legislation failed in August.

The document would likely craft incentives to entice critical infrastructure operators — such as the electric grid — to join a voluntary cybersecurity standards program.

Republicans had opposed standards for critical infrastructure networks, fearing even voluntary rules would eventually turn into new regulations. But Democrats and Obama have said such networks are too vital to ignore.

Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has warned that the national power system is vulnerable to cyber attacks.

As the nation’s top electric grid regulator, Wellinghoff has consistently called for a federal agency to be given more authority to protect the electric grid. He has said no entity currently has legal permission to intervene to defend the nation's power grid against cyberattacks.