New York Legislation Seeks to Block Energy Grid Cyberattacks

The legislation was proposed by Con Edison vice president of IT and CIO Manny Cancel in conjunction with Assemblymen Michael Cusick and Charles Falls, the goal being to protect New York's energy grid.

by Paul Liotta, Staten Island Advance / May 10, 2019
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(TNS) — A new piece of legislation at the state level would take steps to protect New York’s electric grid from cyberattacks.

New York Assemblymen Michael Cusick and Charles Fall were joined by Con Edison Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Manny Cancel to announce the Cusick-authored legislation Thursday in Livingston.

“New York’s energy grid is a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals across the globe,” Cusick said. “We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and give folks who want to harm New York’s unfettered access to the grid.”

Hackers exposed that unfettered access in June 2017 when they targeted a small power plant in upstate New York that provides energy to Fort Drum independent of the civilian grid.

According to a January report from the Wall Street Journal, the company that owns the plant suffered an intrusion, but its generating facilities weren’t affected.

Cusick pointed to a 2015 incident in Ukraine when more than 230,000 people lost power as a result of a cyberattack.

Most recently, a “cyberevent” occurred March 5 that interrupted grid operations in California, Utah and Wyoming, according to United States Department of Energy documents obtained by E&E News.

A DOE official told the Advance in an email that the department received a reported “denial-of-service condition” that was “related to a known vulnerability that required a previously published software update to mitigate."

The incident did not impact generation, the reliability of the grid or cause any customer outages, according to the DOE official.

Cusick’s legislation would add systems utility companies use to manage their distribution network to the state’s definition of “critical infrastructure."

“Critical infrastructure” is anything important enough that its “incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof,” according to the New York Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Cusick, the chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, said it was important for him to take a leadership role in making New York’s electric grid more secure.

The bill will also help to improve coordination between government agencies and the private utilities that provide electricity, and would take steps to protect consumer data.

“People take for granted the energy sources that come into their house, and they don’t realize that everything is connected digitally,” he said.

©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.