After a report earlier in the month indicated foreign hackers successfully infiltrated the U.S. power grid infrastructure, government officials immediately started working on legislation aimed at reducing the possibility of a similar incident in the future.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) and Rep Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) officially introduced the Critical Electric Infrastructure Protection Act, which has been written to help create guidelines to bolster the government's readiness for possible cyberattacks. Lieberman currently heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, while Thompson is the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.
"Any failure of our electric grid, whether intentional or unintentional, would have a significant and potentially devastating impact on our nation," Thompson said in a statement. "We must ensure that the proper protections, resources and regulatory authorities are in place to address any threat aimed at our power system."
If a cyberthreat against the infrastructure is perceived to be legitimate, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will have the ability to hand out orders and modify rules, the bill said. FERC could force critical facilities to change passwords, lock down systems, or do anything else it perceives as a necessary step.
"This legislation addresses these critical issues by providing a common sense approach to ensure continued security of the nation's electric infrastructure."
As the threat of cyber attacks continues to grow at an alarming rate, the report linked to earlier indicates cyber attackers from Russia and China targeted the U.S. electrical grid -- malware tools were installed in case they wanted to shut the network down later. Even more troubling, according to security experts, was the ease in which hackers were able to gain entry into the network.
The U.S. grid control systems are electronically probed for weaknesses a large number of times by foreign hackers, though there weren't any previous confirmed accounts of actual infiltration, according to the Defense Science Board.
The overall possibility of a crippling cyber attack has led to computer security companies working with government agencies on protecting vital assets.