- This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) co-chaired a meeting of the Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Council in an effort to advance coordination to address cybersecurity threats to pipelines.
- The groups launched the Pipeline Security Initiative (PSI) to leverage federal government expertise with industry knowledge to address the growing threats to the nation's energy system.
- While cybersecurity concerns in the energy industry have so far focused mostly on the electric sector, which has seen a rise in hacking attempts, experts say gas and oil pipelines can be vulnerable as well. Government officials say Russian hackers are engaged in a long-term campaign to infiltrate networks.
With the prevalence of automation and digital sensors, pipelines moving a physical commodity, like oil or natural gas, are vulnerable to cyber intrusions, just as a transmission line or power plant. And as focus ramps up on how to protect the electric system, stakeholders in other energy sectors want to stay ahead of threats as well.
Topics discussed at the meeting this week included U.S. cybersecurity strategy, government and industry priorities, information sharing, incident response and strategic actions.
PSI "will leverage the unique expertise" of DOE, DHS and other federal agencies to support the efforts of the oil and gas industry to address the "threats to our nation's pipelines," DOE Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response Karen Evans said in a statement.
Boosting public and private investments to improve the country’s critical energy infrastructure "is paramount to ensuring a reliable and resilient electric grid," DOE Assistant Secretary for Electricity Bruce Walker said in a statement.
The DOE's interest in pipeline cybersecurity comes as the threat to electric infrastructure appears to be growing. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven Russian military officers on hacking-related charges, including allegedly attempting to steal the login credentials of Westinghouse Electric employees who were involved in advanced nuclear reactor development and new reactor technology.