Murkowski: No Time to Rest on the Question of Cybersecurity

Highlights Importance of Public-Private Partnerships to Combat Cyber Threats to Energy Infrastructure

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today held a hearing to examine current efforts to protect domestic energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats and evaluated efforts to secure the nation’s natural gas pipeline system. In addition to highlighting the work that must be done to stay ahead of emerging threats, the hearing fostered a discussion about how the energy industry has worked with its federal partners to modify their digital networks, engage in research and advanced technologies, develop new products, and create organizations for the sharing of information and best practices.

In her opening statement, Murkowski spoke about the importance of addressing threats to domestic energy delivery systems.

“While this committee has spent considerable time over the years examining the threats posed to the nation’s grid infrastructure, today we will also assess efforts to secure natural gas pipelines,” Murkowski said. “Given the interdependency of natural gas and electricity, it is imperative that these energy delivery systems are adequately protected.”

“This is not the time for the United States to rest on the question of cybersecurity,” Murkowski continued. “The number, scope, and severity of attacks continue to increase, and we must press government to be of greater assistance to asset owners and encourage better equipment designs.”

In their testimony, several witnesses raised the point that properly responding to ongoing cyber threats and attacks will be increasingly dependent upon robust public-private partnerships.

  • “DOE plays a critical role in supporting industry functions in several ways: providing partnership mechanisms that support collaboration and trust; leveraging government capabilities to gather intelligence on threats and vulnerabilities, and sharing actionable intelligence with energy owners and operators…,” said Patricia Hoffman, acting secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the Department of Energy.
  • “Strong public-private partnerships are key to successful information sharing within the electricity sector and across sectors,” said Gerry W. Cauley, president and CEO for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
  • “The single most important aspect of cybersecurity policy remains effective government-private sector partnership,” said former Congressman Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the American Gas Association.

The Internet-of-Things is increasingly involved in all phases of energy generation and delivery. While convenience and efficiency gains have resulted from digital technology innovation, it also creates even more avenues for cyber intrusion and exposes new vulnerabilities for energy supply.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has a long history of working to address cybersecurity threats to our nation’s energy systems. A decade ago, the committee took action in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to protect grid infrastructure from both physical and cybersecurity threats. In the 114th Congress, the FAST Act included committee provisions to codify the Department of Energy as the sector-specific agency for the energy sector and provide emergency authority to the Energy Secretary to address grid-related emergencies caused by cyberattacks, physical attacks, electromagnetic pulses, or geomagnetic disturbances.  The committee also included provisions designed to protect sensitive information from disclosure.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website.