Report calls for cyber protection

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A new think tank report claims that the American electric grid needs to be better protected from the threat of cyber attacks.

The Bipartisan Policy Center analysis authored by Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), among others, called for a new organization to coordinate industry practices, better sharing of information and government-funded efforts to understand serious cyber risks.

“Our recommendations target areas where gaps or limitations in current policies and practices leave room to further reduce the vulnerability of the electric grid—and the broader U.S. economy—to fast-growing and rapidly evolving cyber threats,” the authors said.

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“Several themes emerge across these recommendations, including the need for greater clarity about the roles and responsibilities of different entities, the need for effective public-private partnerships and improved information sharing, and the need to address incentives and cost-allocation issues in light of the diversity of parties involved and the ‘public good’ nature of many cybersecurity investments.”

By 2020, U.S. utility companies are expected to spend about $7 billion on cybersecurity.

Federal officials have repeatedly called for Congress to act to help coordinate that effort and set standards for critical infrastructure companies. Last week, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said that the country was not prepared for the coming wave of cyber attacks.

“Those attacks are coming, and I think those are near-term and we’re not ready for them,” he told a Senate panel.

Bills from Congress, the Bipartisan Policy Center report said, could encourage companies to participate in a new cybersecurity organization and protect companies for “good faith” information sharing. 

The Senate failed to pass a major cybersecurity bill in 2012.

This year, the Obama administration issued a voluntary framework for utility companies to beef up their cyber protections.