Working with Peers Is Critical to Power System Reliability [PODCAST]

When conversations around the power industry turn to computer hacking, more often than not experts say it’s not a question of if, but rather, how systems have been compromised.

William Doering, adjunct professor in the online Master’s in Business Administration program at Maryville University and a director with Guidehouse—a management consulting services provider—said he has participated in various discussions on how to cleanse infection and how to ensure reliability after the fact. Speaking on The POWER Podcast, Doering said the Stuxnet computer worm and the Ukraine power grid cyberattack in 2015 should provide more than enough evidence that systems are vulnerable.

“For us to think that something like that hasn’t happened yet [in the U.S.] is definitely on the riskier side of optimistic,” Doering said.

“I think the level of sophistication that state-level actors provide is in many cases astounding,” he said. But even more worrisome to Doering is the fact that state-level-actor tools, which are extremely sophisticated, complex, and devastating, have been released and are now in the hands of the broader masses.

“The level of disruption is really hard to gauge,” Doering said. “Building microgrids around critical infrastructure where they have the ability to do generation plus storage, and I’m not saying that that’s the only answer but … a combined portfolio of solutions, I think, provides a lot of resilience.”

Doering also touched on the risks presented by electromagnetic pulse and geomagnetic disturbance events, suggesting that a combined effort is needed to harden the system. “If you have limited resources on how to prepare, selecting the appropriate level of preparation is crucial,” he said. “I don’t think any utility or even a government actor has the ability to do all of the things [necessary], so I think instead what we do is try to prioritize and understand, ‘Where do our limited resources bear the most fruit?’ ”

“For me, the place where I see the most value put in is the information sharing,” Doering said. “Always be learning, always be working with your peers, be working with your vendors, identifying situations where the first thing that we need to do is question our assumptions.”

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Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).