Quietly and without much public recognition, the National Guard has been developing a sophisticated capability for cyberdefense.

A few weeks ago I was on Capitol Hill at an event sponsored by the Lexington Institute discussing the growing role of the National Guard in protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks — specifically the electric power grid. Risks to US critical infrastructures are growing significantly; the Department of Homeland Security reported a seven-fold increase in cyber incidents on critical infrastructures between 2010 and 2015.

The ability to reliably generate and deliver electric power is foundational to modern civilization. Unfortunately, most of us take it for granted. It is hard to imagine a more important function on which every individual, and the whole nation, depends. Those charged with the responsibility of protecting our critical infrastructures face great challenges. Just think about the high distribution of the electric power grid! It has nearly 5,000 different entities of widely varying size and capacity generating and/or distributing energy.

Historically, the greatest threats to the reliable generation and delivery of energy were environmental such as major storms and natural disasters, but this is changing. Some portions of the grid are particularly vulnerable to physical attack. More significantly, the grid is the subject of increasing cyber penetrations and outright attacks. Last December, a relatively simple cyberattack on a portion of the Ukrainian power grid disrupted power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

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