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The new digital landscape and growing cyber threats require that oil and gas installations, power grid infrastructure and other utilities be more resilient to cyber-attacks. Individual attacks and cyber warfare tactics highlight the importance of strengthening critical infrastructure information security.

Utilities worldwide have been strengthening their security against threats to their IT networks but have not paid enough attention to their industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT) systems.

In the US, an Administration program initiated last April funds and outfits electric utillities and other industrial control systems with sensors alerting on potential cybersecurity threats to the government. 

Some 90 participants took part in recent a White House voluntary pilot for private-sector owners and operators controlling the vast majority of U.S. critical infrastructure. Expanding the effort from the electricity sector to the water sector, senior administration officials told reporters more than 150 electric utilities and “multiple critical natural gas pipelines have deployed, or are in the process of deploying, additional cybersecurity technologies” due to the initiative.

The sensors are particularly important for gaining visibility into an environment that is dominated by legacy “operational technology” that is increasingly connected to the internet for greater efficiency—and with the pandemic—to allow remote functionality, according to nextgov.com.  

There are more than 3,000 electric utilities across the country. But officials said the Department of Energy wanted to start with those most critical based on the population sizes they serve.