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Government officials slow to develop, implement smart grid cyber security laws

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, August 15, 2011

The rapid development of the smart grid over the past few years has resulted in the electric grid's increased effectiveness, among other benefits. Industry experts worry, however, that critical infrastructure protection (CIP) regulations are lacking, and according to a published report, lawmakers are to blame.

According to a report from Government Computer News, a number of government agencies are responsible for developing comprehensive cyber security protocols. Nonetheless, various groups are charged with protecting different sectors, and experts are concerned that those tasked with crafting and implementing smart grid cyber security measures are failing to deliver comprehensive guidelines.

Federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security, along with those from the Pentagon and other government agencies, met in Washington D.C. in July to discuss the vulnerability of computer networks to hackers, but little has been done since the meetings to improve smart grid cyber security protocols, analysts say.

In fact, though federal information security has been listed as a high-risk priority by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 1997, many industry experts contend that there has been very little accomplished in terms of improving cyber security standards.

The race to improve CIP regulations is of the utmost importance, government officials have said, but with so little accomplished over the past decade, many critics have charged the government with failing to deliver on its promises.

The Obama Administration unveiled in June a guideline of how it believes the smart grid should be developed over the coming years. While Obama Administration officials called for enhanced cyber security protocols, government officials are at odds over how exactly - and in what manner - such regulations should be developed, implemented and enforced.

"Despite the actions taken by several successive administrations and the executive branch agencies, significant challenges remain to enhancing the protection of cyber-reliant critical infrastructures," GAO director of information security issues Gregory Wilshusen told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in July.

"The threats to information systems are evolving and growing, and systems supporting our nation’s critical infrastructure are not sufficiently protected to consistently thwart the threats," he added.

With researchers discovering new vulnerabilities in computer defense systems nearly every day, the pressure is on government regulators to develop a comprehensive set of cyber security regulations. Critics, however, are afraid that officials will fail to unveil such rules in a timely manner. 

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