US energy secretary warns ‘malign actors’ trying to down power grid

·2 min read
<p>US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks at a White House press briefing.</p> (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks at a White House press briefing.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, has warned that the US faces an ongoing threat in the form of “malicious actors” targeting critical parts of the nation’s power grid.

Ms Granholm said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union that she believed US adversaries had the capability to shut down all or parts of the US energy grid, and said that many were trying to do so.

“Most of the energy sector, most of how we get power in this country is the private sector, it’s not government,” said Tapper. “Do you think that adversaries of the United States have the capability right now to shut down the power grid?”

“Yeah, they do,” Ms Granholm responded.

“I think that there are very malign actors who are trying even as we speak. There are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally,” she continued.

The solution, she said, was for increased public-private cooperation to ensure that private companies had the capabilities to defend themselves from sophisticated ransomware and other cyberattacks.

Ms Granholm’s comments come as ransomware attacks have come under increased focus in recent weeks following the the Colonial Pipeline Company attack and other instances including an attack targeting Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Top officials at the Department of Justice said last week that ransomware attacks would be categorised under a new system that gives them a similar priority to terrorist attacks. Under the new guidelines, US Attorneys’ offices around the country will be required to share details about ongoing ransomware investigations with Justice officials.

The US’s largest beef producer experienced a ransomware attack as recently as last week, which forced a shutdown of its US facilities on Tuesday.

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