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New York Lawmakers Pass Grid Cyber Defense Legislation

The recently passed legislation would take steps to regulate the state's energy companies ensuring that they improve their cybersecurity practices to avoid cyber attacks that could impact the electric grid.

(TNS) — Power grids around the country remain vulnerable to cyber attacks, but the New York Assembly passed legislation Wednesday that would take steps to protect the state's energy supply.

Assemblyman Mike Cusick ( D-North Shore/Mid-Island) introduced the bill as chair of his chamber's Energy Committee, and said the legislation would help protect New Yorkers from the type of cyber attack blackouts seen around the globe.

" New York's energy grid is a prime target for hackers and cyber criminals across the globe," he said. "We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and give folks who want to harm New York's unfettered access to the grid. The passage of this legislation is a crucial step in our fight against cyber crime and our efforts to bolster the resiliency of our grid."

The Senate version of the bill has yet to be brought to a vote, and a spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would review the legislation if it passes both chambers. It passed the Assembly unanimously.

Earlier this year, Hochul launched a statewide partnership called the " Joint Security Operations Center" that serves as a first-of-its-kind cyber command center in the U.S. offering a statewide view of cyber threats to New York and promises improved coordination with federal and local partners.

She made the announcement in February with mayors from the state's top cities, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

"There is a new type of emerging risk that threatens our daily lives, and just as we improved our physical security infrastructure in the aftermath of 9/11, we must now transform how we approach cybersecurity with that same rigor and seriousness," the governor said.

Cusick's legislation takes steps to regulate the state's energy companies ensuring that they improve their cybersecurity practices.

It also adds language to the state's energy law that allows for future legislation protecting infrastructure, and empowers the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to coordinate with state, local and federal agencies to ensure the best approach to cybersecurity.

Power grid cyber attacks have become a growing concern around the globe in recent years. A 2015 power grid hack shut down part of Ukraine's energy supply leaving more than 200,000 people without power for up to six hours.

Investigators attributed that attack, which marked the world's first successful power grid hack, to a Russian cyber military unit.

In the U.S., a pipeline hack last year left Americans in the southeast with a limited gas supply exposing concerns about the country's aging infrastructure that's vulnerable to these types of attacks.

"New Yorkers have witnessed damaging cyber attacks across the globe that have caused black outs, seen customer data stolen, and threatened critical infrastructure, including American military bases," Cusick said.

"This legislation will significantly bolster the Legislature's ability to craft sensible cybersecurity policy while protecting consumers who should not have to give up their privacy when they connect their home to the power grid."

©2022 Staten Island Advance, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.