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Congressman: National power grid frequently attacked

A worker repairs electrical lines as Long Islanders continue clean up efforts in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy on November 9 in Plainview, New York.

Story highlights

  • The energy sector is facing ever-increasing cyber and physical attacks on the nation's electric grid, industry experts said
  • Such attacks hit the nation's electric grid once every four days, according to estimates

Washington (CNN)The energy sector is calling for improvement in notification and information sharing from the federal government in the face of ever-increasing cyber and physical attacks on the nation's electric grid, industry experts said before a House panel on Wednesday.

Such attacks hit the nation's electric grid once every four days, according to estimates, Rep. Randy Weber, a Texas Republican, said at the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology hearing. The session was focused on better protecting the nation's power grid and identifying its vulnerability to cyberattacks.
    "In over 300 cases of significant cyber and physical attacks since 2011, suspects have never been identified," Weber said.
    America's electric grid is being modernized through an increased use of "smart grid" technology which includes more digital IT technology. However, a more modernized system also means more interconnectivity and more access points for intruders.
    Brent Stacey, an associate lab director at the Idaho National Laboratory, told lawmakers there has been a "32% increase in the number of attacks on the energy sector" and it continues to increase.
    Lawmakers were alarmed by what they heard.
    "In just one month, the PJM interconnection -- which coordinates electricity transactions in 13 states and in D.C. -- experienced 4,090 documented cyber attempts to attack their system," said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon. "That's more than five and a half attacks on their electrical power system per hour."
    So far, there has been no reported cyber-attack that has resulted in widespread loss of power, but threats and attempts are increasing by the day.
    Bennet Gaines, senior vice president at First Energy Service Company, told lawmakers the energy sector needs more information and better communication from the federal government.
    "In some cases there's a three-to-six-month lag" before the government shares any details on cyberattacks, Gaines said.