NERC’s grid security exercise, GridEx VI, has concluded the distributed play portion of its exercise. Over the past two days, more than 700 planners led their organizations’ efforts to exercise their response and recovery plans in the face of simulated, coordinated cyber and physical attacks on the North American bulk power system and other critical infrastructure. Hosted every two years by NERC’s Electric Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), GridEx is the largest grid security exercise in North America.
Exercises like GridEx are an important aspect of NERC’s mission to assure the reliability and resilience of the bulk power system, which is inextricably tied to grid security. Since the last GridEx in 2019, the cyber security landscape has continued to evolve, guided by geopolitical events, new vulnerabilities, changes in technologies, and increasingly bold cyber criminals and hackers.
“I can’t overstate the importance of the role that our partnerships with industry and government leaders play in mitigating these threats,” said Manny Cancel, chief executive officer of E-ISAC. “The emergency response planning and coordination that takes place during the exercise strengthens our collective ability to defend the electricity grid against the cyber and physical security threats of the future.”
This year GridEx participants expanded to include more representation from public power, co-op and municipal entities, Canadian partners and other critical infrastructure sectors, such as natural gas, original equipment manufacturers, financial services, and telecommunications. “These cross-border, cross-industry relationships provide the necessary strength in-depth needed to mitigate the current threat landscape,” Cancel noted.
Lessons learned from GridEx over the years include tangible recommendations for entities as well as industry-wide insights leading to strengthened crisis communication procedures across the industry such as the development of the Cyber Mutual Assistance program, which has proven to be a critical resource.
The exercise concludes with an invitation-only executive tabletop session, which brings together industry and government executives to focus on strategic and policylevel issues raised during the exercise.
Following GridEx VI, the E-ISAC will develop a public report on the exercise with input from all participants. The report is scheduled to be released in March 2022.