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July 12, 2016

In Hearing, King Calls for Action on Bill to Protect Electric Grid from Cyber-Attacks

Calls growing cyber-threat “the longest wind-up for a punch in the history of the world.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) urged the Senate to move forward with his Securing Energy Infrastructure Act of 2016, legislation that seeks to protect critical U.S. energy infrastructure, like the electric grid, from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks. Senator King spoke in support of his legislation during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy to receive testimony on the bill.

“This is a very straight forward bill, and it does grow out – to some extent – of the experience in Ukraine where they found that they had analog and human intervention at certain key points,” said Senator King. “This is a recognition that, with all of our sophistication, comes additional vulnerability. And what we’re attempting to do today is to talk about and work on – on a pilot basis, and on a voluntary basis for the utilities – some unconventional solutions to this vulnerability challenge. I do not want to go home to Maine after a disastrous attack somewhere in the United States on our critical infrastructure and explain that we didn’t try.”

Senator King’s bill, which he introduced last month with Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would examine solutions to defend the U.S. energy grid by replacing key devices like computer-connected operating systems that are vulnerable to cyber-attacks with analog and human-operated systems – a “retro” approach that has shown promise as a safeguard against cyber-attacks.

As a member of both the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, Senator King has repeatedly pushed for a comprehensive cyber-defense policy, and heard from national security officials about the looming threat of cyber-attacks on America.

“When I used to appear before the Maine Legislature, the first question always asked was, ‘Why are you here?’ And I think the answer in this case is pretty clear,” said Senator King. “I would say in virtually every hearing that we’ve had [in the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees] over the past four years that I’ve been to, somehow, cyber-vulnerability comes into the conversation. I characterize this as the longest wind-up for a punch in the history of the world. We know that it’s coming, and we know that there are people who are actively working to do us harm right now. And we’ve had warning shots – OPM, Sony, and others.”

The subcommittee hearing today followed a request from Senators King, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) – members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sponsors of the bill – to hold a hearing on the legislation. Following the bill’s consideration today, it must undergo further consideration by the Committee before moving forward.

To read more about the legislation click HERE.

To watch Senator King’s remarks during the hearing today, click HERE.


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