Senate passes cybersecurity bill seeking use of ‘retro’ technology

Electro Mechanical Relay Panel
"Retro" Tech, Electro Mechanical Relays

Source: UtilityDrive

Once again, members of congress try to pass legislation to move the grid backwards, using older technology including “analog and nondigital control systems,” purpose-built control systems and physical controls to prevent possible exploitation.

As reported by UtilityDrive:

  • The U.S. Senate on June 27 passed a bipartisan cybersecurity bill that will study ways to replace automated systems with low-tech redundancies to protect the country’s electric grid from hackers.
  • The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (SEIA) establishes a two-year pilot program to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities and to research and test solutions, including “analog and nondigital control systems.” The U.S. Department of Energy would be required to report back to Congress on its findings.
  • The SEIA legislation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. A companion bill has been introduced by bipartisan sponsors in the House of Representatives.

The increase in distributed energy resources can serve load more efficiently, but also offers potential attackers more potential entry points.

“Our connectivity is a strength that, if left unprotected, can be exploited as a weakness,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said in a statement. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho cosponsored the bill.

The bill “seeks to build on this concept by studying ways to strategically use ‘retro’ technology to isolate the grid’s most important control systems,” including manual procedures controlled by human operators. 

The bill was previously introduced in the 114th Congress and received a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2016.

The pilot projects will consider “analog and nondigital control systems,” purpose-built control systems and physical controls, according to the bill text.

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