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In eerie testimony, FERC director warns of smart grid vulnerability to cyber attacks

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, charged with overseeing utility providers in the U.S., is increasingly moving to ensure the nation's electricity supply is protected as utilities invest in the development of the smart grid. FERC director Joe McClelland recently said there are gaps in coverage in smart grid protections, according to a new report.

In a testimony before a Senate committee, McClelland affirmed that the rapid investment into the U.S. smart grid is presenting cybersecurity holes that hackers from around the globe could potentially exploit. McClelland argued that FERC needs additional regulatory powers if it is to effectively protect the U.S. electricity supply.

"FERC currently does not have sufficient authority to require effective protection of the grid against cyber or physical attacks," McClelland said. "If adequate protection is to be provided, legislation is needed and my testimony discusses the key elements that should be included in legislation in this area."

According to McClelland, FERC has no power in both Hawaii and Alaska, and it currently has no authority in some transmission and all local distribution facilities in places like New York City. "Thus precluding Commission action to mitigate cyber or other national security threats to reliability that involve such facilities and major population areas," he said.

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