President Trump recently issued an Executive Order to bar the purchase of certain critical electrical grid components from foreign adversaries. This order—like a similar telecommunications order released last year—reflects an acknowledgment by the federal government of a longstanding cyber threat to the electric grid posed by compromised equipment. 

As with other threats to our critical industries such as the financial and defense sectors, it’s not a problem the government can solve on its own. However, the executive order convenes a task force made up of no less than seven separate government agencies with the Department of Energy in the lead. Industry, through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), only has a consulting role and this should get expanded.

We’ve long known about the threat posed to our electric power sector and other critical industries by foreign cyber actors, particularly nation-states with advanced capabilities such as Russia and China, as well as those with increasing capabilities like Iran and North Korea. And to address these threats, the electric power industry has taken steps to work with one another and the government through a variety of public and private sector-led efforts, including the Electricity ISAC and the Electric Sector Coordinating Council (ESCC), composed of large utilities, municipalities, cooperatives and leading industry groups.  

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