Energy Secretary Warns Cyberattack Could Shut Down U.S. Power Grid

There are malign cyber actors capable of shutting down the U.S. power grid or parts of it, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said this weekend, calling for increased public-private cooperation in fending off cyberattacks.

“I think that there are very malign actors who are trying,” Secretary Granholm said on CNN and NBC on Sunday. “Even as we speak, there are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally,” she added.

When asked if American adversaries have the capability now of shutting down the U.S. power grid, Secretary Granholm said: “Yes, they do.”

“Everyone needs to wake up and up their game in terms of protecting themselves, but also telling the federal government if they are target of attacks,” she told NBC.

Secretary Granholm also said that companies paying ransomware only exacerbates the cyberattack problem, and no one should be paying ransomware.

Last month, a ransomware attack on the computer network of the key fuel pipeline for the U.S. East Coast, Colonial Pipeline, forced the pipeline operator to shut it down for five days. The cyberattack and the subsequent shut down the main pipeline for the Eastern Seaboard resulted in fuel shortages, a run to gas stations, and a spike in gasoline prices. As of May 13, the U.S. national average price of regular gasoline had jumped to $3.028 per gallon, topping the $3 mark for the first time since 2014.

Even days after the pipeline resumed operations, gasoline shortages continued to persist. Two weeks after the cyberattack, drivers in parts of the Southeast were still finding it hard to locate gasoline. According to GasBuddy, as of May 20, around 30 percent of all retail gas stations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were out of gasoline. Virginia and Tennessee were also experiencing significant outages.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com