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billion such devices will be internet- connected by 2020, up from 15 billion now, according to a 2015 report by DHL and Cisco Systems. Theoretically, all those con-


nected machines offer malevolent actors a wider attack surface. In reality, experts say those fears are overblown. The U.S. energy system resembles a patchwork quilt whose design makes a singular disabling cyber event highly improbable. It is woven together from three regional segments, each designed to run independently: the Eastern Inter- connection, the Western Intercon- nection and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Each regional section incorporates multiple layers of security redundancy. The entire nexus is overseen by NERC, the electric reliability organization for North America, that’s subject to oversight by FERC. “Any attack would have to be


massive and incredibly coordinated across each of the three intercon- nections. I would never say ‘never,’ but it would require an attack of military scale,” says Barry Lawson,


associate director for power deliv- ery and reliability at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Asso- ciation, an Arlington-based trade group. Dominion and some Virginia


rural electricity cooperatives partici- pated in a recent FERC-sponsored emergency drill involving 4,400 utilities from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The gathering revolved around role playing to test for disaster preparedness. The practice helps utilities nimbly adjust to an evolving threat environment, says Thomas Kuhn, president of Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C., which represents investor- owned utilities. “You learn a great deal during


those exercises. Something always happens that you hadn’t planned for. You’re not only trying to improve physical security, but how you would communicate with the media and the public if there is a threat from cyberspace,” Kuhn says. Protecting the nation’s grid


took on a new urgency after an April 16, 2013, shooting attack at


Cyber incidents by sector 100 97


10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


0


The energy industry had the second-highest number of cyber incidents in fiscal year 2015, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security looking at a variety of industries.


46 chart... 23 25 27 18 2 6 7 22 14 6 4 3 13


Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf substation, near San Jose, Calif. Armed with semiautomatic rifles, gunmen slipped undetected onto the compound to sever six under- ground cables to an emergency phone system. Then, from behind a chain-link fence, they fired half a dozen rounds, disabling 17 trans- formers — inflicting an estimated $15.4 million in damage but no outages — before mysteriously vanishing. In its official report, the Cali-


fornia Public Utilities Commission termed the act “vandalism” — an assessment echoed by the FBI and FERC. But a former PG&E executive, and FERC’s chairman at the time of the shooting, Jon Wellinghoff, told The Wall Street Journal in 2014 that Metcalf bears the earmarks of a well-organized domestic terror plot.


How Virginia’s energy industry prepares for worst-case scenarios Virginia’s concentrated


military-industrial presence under- scores the huge risk. Naval Station Norfolk is the most prominent of Virginia’s 29 military installations. It is the world’s largest naval base, harboring the Fleet Forces Com- mand for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The neighboring Port of


Virginia boasts one of the deepest harbors along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and is a major artery of international trade. In nearby Newport News, Dominion’s largest commercial customer is shipbuild- ing conglomerate Huntington Ingalls Industries, which furnishes ships and fleet support to the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. Meanwhile, Northern Virginia sits at the hub of the national government, with other federal properties scattered across the commonwealth. “What makes us vulnerable


Source:


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center/Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, Year in Review FY 2015


in Virginia is the critical infra- structure the electric companies support,” says Darek Dabbs, chief information officer for Suffolk- based Sera-Brynn, a cybersecurity


20 AUGUST 2016


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