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Cybersecurity is the real threat to grid resilience

A Chevron oil field along Highway 58 is a hub of activity and appears to be pumping oil and natural gas at near full production on March 28, 2017, near McKittrick, California.
A Chevron oil field near McKittrick, California. Photo: George Rose via Getty Images

America’s pipelines and electric grids are vulnerable to major disruptions from “an adversarial attack or natural disaster,” according to a recent Department of Energy (DOE) plan. But DOE’s proposed near-term solution — ordering electrical grip operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear power producers — misses the point. “Fuel security and diversity” are not the most critical measures for enhancing grid resiliency — robust cybersecurity is.

The big picture: Technological improvements to the production and transmission of electricity promise plentiful and cheap power. But technology has introduced cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are independent of how the energy is produced. These weaknesses are the real threat to grid resilience, and subsidies for failing coal and nuclear plants will not address them.