President Joe Biden is calling for stronger defenses for government computer systems, a move that could also boost the cybersecurity of private-sector supply chains and software.
The May 12 executive order calls for stronger cybersecurity standards in the federal government and removing barriers to sharing information about cyberattacks within agencies.
“This latest cybersecurity directive from the White House has no immediate impact on electric cooperatives, but its requirements could benefit co-op and private-sector cyber defenses in the long run," said Bridgette Bourge, NRECA legislative director on cybersecurity issues.
It requires a security standard baseline for software sold to the government and for developers to label the cyber capability of their products for public awareness. And it establishes a cybersecurity safety review board, composed of government officials and private sector representatives, to analyze major incidents and recommend improvements.
The White House directive has been in the works for months. Its announcement comes on the heels of the largest cyberattack on U.S. energy infrastructure. The Colonial Gas Pipeline, a major East Coast fuel artery, was shut down May 7 after a ransomware attack. The pipeline resumed operations May 12.
Biden's executive order follows the announcement of a voluntary 100-day initiative to strengthen cyber defenses of industrial controls and operational technology systems focused on the electric sector. That effort is initially focused on electric utilities with more than 50,000 customers.
NRECA is participating in the 100-day initiative through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council and is working to expand the use of Essence. Essence is an NRECA-developed software that can provide early warning of a system intrusion and is one of two technologies assessed for the 100-day initiative as meeting all government requirements. The Department of Energy is expected to help support a wide-scale co-op pilot of the tool.
“We are pleased that Essence has been recognized for its sophisticated cybersecurity capabilities," said Emma Stewart, NRECA's chief scientist. “As an advanced anomaly-detection tool, Essence in real-time can identify and warn of possible network breaches. We look forward to putting it in play with co-ops under this initiative."
Explore NRECA's resources on cybersecurity.