A cyber-attack task force is forming to evaluate a way to help protect the U.S. power grid in the event of a web-based assault, said officials at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

The 40-volunteer task force will identify areas to boost existing protection, resilience and recovery capabilities associated with power system practices, plans and procedures, as well as the tools and systems operators rely upon to manage a bulk power system.

“Operators are trained to spot anomalies and take the appropriate actions in real time,” said Mark Engels, director of IT risk management at Dominion, who also chairs the task force. “The Cyber Attack Task Force will build on that existing knowledge with recommendations that make it easier to detect and respond to indicators of an organized attack.”

Last year, NERC and the Energy Department released a report “High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System,” which found the best approach to handling risks would be through an organized combination of industry-led task forces and NERC staff initiatives.

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“NERC and the electricity industry have been actively addressing cyber security risks for some years now,” said Gerry Cauley, NERC president and chief executive. “This initiative will more thoroughly examine the potential impact of a targeted cyber attack and how the industry should best coordinate the preparedness and response actions of cyber security experts with power grid operators.”

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