NERC completes grid security exercise

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The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s two-day cyber and physical security exercise last week , aimed to enhance and improve cyber and physical security resources and practices within the industry, completed with more than 200 participant industry and government organizations.

The second such exercise (the first was in 2011), GridEx II was intended to give participants the opportunity to check the readiness of their crisis action plans through a simulated security exercise to self assess response and recovery capabilities, and to adjust actions and plans as needed, while communicating with industry and government information sharing organizations.

“Protecting the bulk power system from security threats and ensuring its resilience are vital to our national security and economic well-being,” said Gerry Cauley, president and chief executive officer at NERC. “Training on physical and cyber attacks on the grid helps industry make the system more secure.”

The scenario was designed to stress the system through a series of prolonged coordinated cyber attacks against certain automated systems used by power system operators. The scenario also included coordinated physical attacks against key transmission substations and generation facilities.

Participants received videos and “injects” that detailed the proposed scenario conditions. Based on this information, participants in their normal workplaces responded with both their organization’s internal response measures and external information-sharing activities across the sector. Such information sharing provided the Electricity Sector-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ES-ISAC) an opportunity to engage subject matter experts and promote problem solving. The information exchange of simulated threats allows NERC and the ES-ISAC to analyze physical and cyber threat information for trends, cross-sector dependencies and to identify specific opportunities for improvement.

A report detailing findings and recommendations from GridEx II is expected in the first quarter of 2014.