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New legislation looks to tackle cybersecurity threats

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, August 02, 2013

With cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure growing, the United States Senate has passed legislation to address mounting concerns about CIP.

The nation's power network is extremely important for society to function, as the country becomes more reliant on it for power. As new homes and businesses come online, the grid becomes a more essential lifeline for the country's electricity distribution. However, this increase in grid dependence is creating a growing vulnerability to cyberthreats from hackers and potential natural disasters.

Though the country is growing in reliance on the grid, this has not spurred modernization efforts that many would like to see, so as to protect against these attacks. According to the Department of Homeland Security, of the over 200 cyberattacks addressed by the agency during the first half of the fiscal year, 111 were on critical infrastructure. This vulnerability has prompted security officials in government to comment on the fragile state of the country's power grid. Among them, is the National Security Administration Security Chief, Keith Alexander, as well as the President himself, who ordered an Executive Order in February to combat these growing threats.

New cybersecurity act
In response to these growing calls to action, the Senate has advanced legislation aimed at improving the security of the country's critical infrastructure. Senate bill S. 1353 grants authority to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to oversee the creation of cybersecurity standards for the private sector, improve research and development efforts, and increase public awareness about the issue, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia explained that while the legislation is a step in the right direction, it is by no means the end solution to the problem. One important amendment made to the bill requires a progress report from the Government Accountability Office to measure the advancements being made in CIP.

Creating security standards 
The NIST continues to draft a "framework" for improving cybersecurity with the goal of having a final draft by 2014 so as to have solutions that can be agreed upon by all parties involved. However, other organizations have already began implementing guidelines to help utilities protect their grid.

One of these organizations is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which has developed a series of CIP standards to improve grid resiliency. SUBNET helps utilities comply with the stringent NERC CIP regulations by implementing solutions that leverage a company's existing assets rather than requiring an entire overhaul of its power network.

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