Power plant

Competing to defend the energy grid

Successful cyberattacks on the electrical grids in Ukraine, combined with evidence of groups targeting North American networks, have stoked concerns over the security of the U.S. power grid. To get new ideas on how to better secure the grid, the Department of Energy will hold one of the largest cyber defense competitions in the nation, challenging college students to protect simulated energy environments from cyber threats.

The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is being held in three locations: Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Each location will have a winner; then an overall winner will be announced. This will be the third year the competition has been held.

Competing students will have to build and defend a simulated oil and natural gas network from attackers while maintaining services.

“It’s no secret that the most worrisome threat we face in the energy sector is cyber. A successful and talented work force is step one to strong energy sector cybersecurity preparedness and coordinated cyber incident response and recovery,” said Devon Streit, deputy assistant secretary with the Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Division within the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Bruce Walker, the assistant secretary at the DOE OE, said in a hearing last month that cyberattacks, in general, “are growing increasingly common.”

DOE recently announced the formation of the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, which will oversee the cybersecurity of the energy sector for the agency and will work with other federal agencies and private sector companies in doing so.

“The energy sector is not immune to such attacks,” Walker said in his testimony.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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