DOE head Granholm warns cyber criminals could shut down U.S. power grid

FILE - In this July 28, 2016, file photo, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Biden is expected to pick his former rival Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation and Granholm as energy secretary. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm earlier this week called for more public-private cooperation on cyber defenses and said U.S. adversaries already are capable of using cyber intrusions to shut down the U.S. power grid.

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

Granholm noted, without mentioning the company by name, that Colonial Pipeline Co. was hit in May with a crippling cyberattack by a ransomware group. Colonial temporarily shut down its gasoline distribution networks in the South before paying $4.4 million to the hackers. She urged energy companies to resist paying ransom.

“The bottom line is, people, whether you’re private sector, public sector, whatever, you shouldn’t be paying ransomware attacks, because it only encourages the bad guys,” she said.

Granholm even spoke in favor of having a law that would ban paying such ransom, though she said, “I don’t know whether Congress or the president is at that point.”

Asked whether American adversaries have the capability now of shutting down the U.S. power grid, she said: “Yes, they do.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States and other countries should talk to countries such as Russia, which is believed to be the origin on some ransomware attacks, about law enforcement and intelligence cooperation “to shut it down.”

Rice said this would “test the reality of how much the Russian government is or is not involved” in these attacks.

Granholm was on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Rice appeared on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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