In order to protect the U.S. against a cyberattack on its electrical system, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, wants the government to examine unplugging some digital systems at strategic points in the national power grid and replacing them with physical ones that hackers cannot compromise, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
"The grand fear is that a cyberattack could take down the grid and that would take down with it hospitals, financial centers, people's day-to-day lives," said King, who serves on the Senate Energy Committee. "There's no question lives would be lost."
King pointed to the experience of Ukraine, which was hit by a massive cyberattack on its electrical grid in 2015. Three companies targeted in the attack recovered power by switching off their digital systems and going to manual operations.
King, however, said the U.S. cannot wait for an attack to respond, because the American grid is much more reliant on its digital systems, which would make it more difficult to just switch to manual in wake of an attack.
"Sometimes the old stuff is the best," King said, pointing out that election cybersecurity experts prefer paper ballots over voting machines, which have a greater vulnerability to tampering because they record ballots digitally.
King is sponsoring a bill that would fund a $10 million National Laboratories study on isolating key portions of the grid, sparked as well by a warning from the National Security Department that hackers backed by the Russian government have been trying to infiltrate the American energy sector since at least March 2016.
King emphasized that point during a hearing last week of the Senate Energy Committee, warning "This is not a threat. This is happening now."
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