King slips legislation protecting grid from cyberattacks into 2020 Defense Authorization Bill

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, tucked legislation to protect the U.S. energy grid from cyberattacks into the finalized 2020 Defense Authorization Bill.

The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, which King introduced with Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, aims to safeguard the grid by facilitating partnerships with private industry through engineering to eliminate vulnerabilities that allow hackers access via hole-plagued software systems.

This legislation, partly inspired by the successful 2015 attack on Ukraine’s power grid, explores ways to use “retro” technology to isolate critical control systems. The Ukraine attack was curbed because the country still relied on manual technology to run the grid. The bill aims to build a two-year pilot with National Laboratories to identify new vulnerabilities, require there be a working group drawn from various entities to review any resultant tech solutions and create a strategy for isolating the energy grid from attacks, and compel the Secretary of Energy to present a formal report to Congress and define the entities covered.

“The energy grid powers our financial transactions, communications networks, healthcare services and more – so if this critical infrastructure is compromised by a hacker, these building blocks of American life are at risk,” said King, who along with Risch is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in a release. “Protecting our energy grid is commonsense, bipartisan and vital to national security, and I’m thrilled this year’s NDAA will enshrine this needed provision into law.”

King also is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

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