The safety and security of national critical infrastructure is currently of paramount concern for many nation states, as operators and organisations scramble to both secure their existing assets from a new range of threats, while at the same time invest in new developments which can boost economic growth. Cybersecurity issues in particular have emerged as the dominant factor in many Western nations’ homeland security posturing in recent years, dominating much of the new response planning and impacting on how private operators fit into overall defensive frameworks.
The security of utilities infrastructure has always been important for governments and operating authorities alike, particularly after the events of the early 21st century. Yet now more than ever, there is renewed emphasis for protection as a result of the way in which cyber security issues have come to dominate new security thinking and planning in this sector.
The electric power transmission and distribution system (the grid) is a critical and extraordinarily complex part of the nation’s infrastructure. The National Academy of Engineering called the grid the world’s largest integrated machine and a central part of the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century—electrification of modern society. Reliable electricity service is essential to health, welfare, national security, communication, and commerce. Because of its scale, geographic reach, and complexity, however, the grid also poses many security challenges in maintaining reliable operation. Furthermore, more than 90 percent of the U.S. power grid is privately owned and regulated by the states, making it challenging for the federal government to address potential vulnerabilities to its operation, and perhaps especially its vulnerability to terrorist attack. This report, prepared by a committee of dedicated experts assembled by the National Research Council (NRC), addresses those vulnerabilities and how they can be reduced.