U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Jim Risch (R-ID) this week reintroduced the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, which seeks to examine solutions to defend the U.S. energy grid by replacing vulnerable computer-connected operating systems with analog and human-operated systems.
The bill received bipartisan co-sponsorship, including from U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Susan Collins (R-ME).
Backers of the bill say switching to analog systems would act as a safeguard for vulnerable computer systems against potential cyber attacks.
The senators said the bill was inspired, in part, by a 2015 cyber attack on the Ukrainian energy grid, which left more than 225,000 people without power for an extended period of time.
“More than a year has passed since we saw Ukraine plunged into darkness as a result of a cyber-attack that cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of people,” King said. “Meanwhile, here in the United States, we have been too slow to take meaningful action to protect ourselves from similar attacks. It’s vital that we act now to bolster the grid’s cyber defenses or we risk a potentially catastrophic attack.”
The legislation would create a two-year pilot program within the National Laboratories to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities, and research and test technology, such as analog devices, that could be used to isolate the most critical systems from cyber attacks.
The bill’s reintroduction comes in the wake of a recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy that warned the country’s grid infrastructure was in imminent danger of a cyber attack. Additionally, the department’s quadrennial energy review found that a widespread power outage caused by a potential cyber attack could place the health and safety of millions of Americans at risk.