House Republicans on Thursday pressed critical infrastructure defense officials on their level of preparedness in the event of a cyberattack on the electrical grid.
“The federal government does not have [a] basic planning scenario for a cyber threat to the power system and there is a huge disparity in what different groups think is a potential scenario for which states and local governments should prepare,” Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaJosh Shapiro officially launches Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro enters governor's race Barletta holds wide lead over GOP rivals in early poll of Pennsylvania governor race MORE (R-Pa.) said in his opening remarks for a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the topic.
“What happens is we don’t have a comprehensive plan at a federal level to look at how we can support [grid operators] in the event of a national attack that would come in the way of cyber,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
Meadows pushed Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, to describe whose bailiwick federal coordination would be in the event of an attack on the grid.
“But who’s in charge?” he said, cutting her off. “With regards to national security, who’s in charge of the power grid? Is it [the Energy Department] or [the Defense Department]?”
Lawmakers have become increasingly concerned over the risk of a large-scale cyberattack on critical infrastructure.
The Obama administration recently indicted an Iranian hacker on charges of illegally accessing the control systems of a New York dam — access that would have given him the ability to control water levels and flow rates.
The incident sparked public fears that a so-called “cyber Pearl Harbor” might knock out large segments of the U.S. power grid — a potentially devastating event that could cost the economy hundreds of billions, raise mortality rates at hospitals and cut the nation’s water supply, according to a recent study.
But the Department of Homeland Security in a recent report threw cold water on such fears, calling such an event “possible" but "not likely” and hinting that the risk has been overstated in media reports.
“Imprecise use of the term ‘cyberattack’ in open source media reporting and throughout the private sector has led to misperceptions about the cyber threat to the U.S. energy sector,” the report reads.