Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday he has a “healthy concern” about the threat of cyberattacks by adversaries, including targeting of the electricity grid.
“Healthy concern is always good in this business,” Perry said at the Atlantic Festival in Washington. “One of my great concerns is to make sure the grid is resilient and it's reliable.”
But Perry said the private sector is working with the Energy Department’s national labs to fend off attacks.
“We have some incredibly bright men and women working in our labs that are hand-in-glove with the private sector,” he said. “This is truly one of those where the private sector is very, very important to our ability to be successful to defend against the nefarious activities of nation states, of terrorist groups, of some kid sitting in a basement somewhere trying to hack into a system."
"I worry not just about the Chinese or the Russians or the Iranians hacking in," Perry added. "We know they are doing it. You can read the newspaper and see they are actively involved in that, and becoming more and more sophisticated.”
Perry’s comments came just weeks after he scolded Russia for its continued attempts to hack the U.S. power grid.
He suggested Moscow has not stopped its hacking efforts after the Department of Homeland Security said in March that Russian hackers gained access to the U.S. electrical grid last year.
The Energy Department on Wednesday held its first meeting with the nation’s security agencies on protecting pipelines from being hacked too.
The Energy Department, the Transportation Safety Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security joined with the oil and natural gas industry on for the first meeting of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector Coordinating Council.
Pipelines can face cybersecurity threats, especially with the use of more digital sensors, controls, and even drones to remotely access and monitor pipeline facilities.
Transportation Safety Administration chief David Pekoske said the meeting builds upon the recently updated Pipeline Security Guidelines the agency developed, and collaboration with the National Risk Management Center established in the summer “to minimize the consequences of an attack or disruption.”
The agencies’ collaboration through the “Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative” will leverage all the resources and expertise of the federal government “to address the threats to our nation's pipelines," said Karen Evans, the Energy Department’s new head of cybersecurity.
Perry also Thursday hyped the U.S. recently surpassing China for having the world’s fastest supercomputer, which he said can help improve cybersecurity.
“We've got the fastest, most powerful supercomputer in the world at the moment," Perry said. “I can promise you the Chinese are working very diligently to retain that place. It is an area of concern as it should be. It is tantamount to the national security of this country."