Poll Finds Americans Wary of Grid Safety in Wake of Russian Hacking

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Americans are worried about grid cybersecurity and see the nation as unprepared for an extended power outage, according to a new poll.

Protect Our Power, a non-profit group that includes former utility executives, released the survey results the same day that Homeland Security and the FBI warned that Russians have hacked the grid and other U.S. infrastructure. The hackers accessed supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems at energy companies by way of third-party suppliers, according to the March 15 alert.

“As we have seen in today’s joint warning from Homeland Security and the FBI, foreign entities are becoming increasingly successful in infiltrating our electric grid and it may only be a matter of time until serious damage is done,” said Jim Cunningham, executive director of Protect Our Power.

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Conducted the first week in March, the Survey Monkey poll of 1,239 Americans found that only eight percent believe the U.S. government is doing enough in terms of grid cybersecurity.

Other findings were:

  • 62 percent believe the electric grid is vulnerable to a cyber or physical attack
  • 66 percent say they are unprepared for an extended power outage
  • 67 percent say they would anticipate significant financial or quality-of-life damage in the event of an extended power outage
  • 69 percent are aware of threats to the grid, including cyber and physical attacks
  • 75 percent say federal legislation to improve critical infrastructure should include funding for the electric grid

“The complexity of how the nation’s electric grid is operated and regulated presents very real challenges when trying to take significant steps forward in cyber security,” said Suedeen Kelly, Protect Our Power’s regulatory counsel and a former commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

She added: “We should not keep kicking this can down the road. The time for federal regulators and Congress to act is now, before it is too late.”

Read more about grid cybersecurity. Download the free Microgrid Knowledge special report,  “Microgrid Cybersecurity: Protecting and Building the Grid of the Future.”

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.