Page 18 - FCW, July 15, 2016
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18 July 15, 2016 FCW.COM
“The United States is one of the most technologically advan which also means we’re one of the most tech
In June, King and three of his col- leagues on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence introduced a bill with a seemingly anachronistic answer to the threat: It advocates replacing digi- tal devices on the grid with analog ones.
“The United States is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, which also means we’re one of the most technologically vulnerable countries in the world,” King said in announcing the bill.
The legislation would establish a two-year pilot program at the Energy Department’s national laboratories to identify new security vulnerabilities in parts of the grid whose compromise could threaten public safety or national security. The $10 million program would support research and implementation of improved platforms, including “analog and non-digital control systems.”
“If all we’re doing is trying to combat hackers with more and more sophisti- cated and complex software solutions,
I think we’re doomed to failure,” King told FCW.
Ukraine’s grid operators managed to get the system back up and running rela- tively quickly thanks to an operational safety net. They were able to restore power “in hours because they had these old-fashioned grid control mechanisms and the people to operate them,” said Paul Stockton, who as an assistant sec- retary of Defense led the Pentagon’s response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
He added that the idea of maintain- ing certain analog or electromechanical control systems to shelter them from hackers is promising. However, the U.S. “power grid is much more technologi- cally sophisticated [than Ukraine’s], grows more so every year, and that introduces new attack surfaces for adversaries to exploit,” said Stockton, who is now managing director of con- sulting firm Sonecon.
In recent years, the U.S. power grid has become increasingly automated
through billions of dollars of invest- ments in “smart grid” technologies that can save customers money and electric- ity. The Senate bill’s embrace of analog stands in contrast to those moderniza- tion efforts, but King said the two are not mutually exclusive.
“I’m not...suggesting that we should repeal the 21st century,” he said. “We’re not talking about de-digitizing the grid in any serious way” but instead isolating certain nodes on the grid.
The downside to automation
The Department of Homeland Secu- rity has been preparing for a cyberat- tack on the U.S. power grid for years. A 2007 DHS-run experiment at the Idaho National Laboratory, known as Aurora, demonstrated how a hacking operation could knock out a power generator.
One of the lessons from Aurora was that it might make sense to have a generator in electromechanical (i.e., not digitized) mode to prevent it from

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