Power sector keeps close eye on physical, cybersecurity in lead up to elections

October 28, 2020

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
October 28, 2020

The power sector is keeping a close watch on potential threats to physical security and cybersecurity from international and domestic actors in the lead up to next week’s elections in the U.S.

A number of electric utilities including public power utilities recently participated in an Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council call related briefing from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two peer utilities, as well as the E-ISAC. The FBI has set up a command center to monitor potential civil unrest related to the elections.

Meanwhile, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) on Oct. 27 released an All-Points Bulletin (APB) on Electricity Industry Preparedness for 2020 U.S. Election.

The E-ISAC routinely monitors all threats to the grid and provides alerts to industry as needed when new or continuing threats emerge.

In its bulletin, the E-ISAC noted that the power industry has undertaken weeks of preparation and analysis and collaboration with federal, state and local partners to ensure continuity of operations during the U.S. election cycle.

“At this time, the E-ISAC is not aware of any known specific or credible threats to the North American electric grid in conjunction with the election,” the E-ISAC said, noting that the bulletin is being shared to raise awareness and promote preparedness during the election.

Also, the E-ISAC has coordinated with the Elections Infrastructure-ISAC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency over the last two months to provide awareness and produced a 2020 Election Threat Awareness and Preparedness White Paper and Executive Summary, which offers an overview of the industry-specific threat and mitigation measures. Additionally, CISA has created a Rumor Control webpage, that will be constantly updated to help the general public understand what is fact and fiction with regards to misinformation efforts by foreign or domestic groups.

In terms of relevant resources provided by the American Public Power Association, APPA’s All-Hazards Guidebook helps public power utilities, joint action agencies, state associations, and other industry representatives in the development or continuous improvement of emergency preparedness programs and all-hazards planning efforts. As utilities prepare for potential civil unrest, the guidance in this resource may be helpful.

APPA encourages its members to coordinate with local, state and federal law enforcement, before any potential physical or cybersecurity incident, to ensure a rapid and coordinated response. For information on how to connect with your local FBI or CISA representatives, please email Cybersecurity@PublicPower.org.