Should the DHS assume control of the electric grid?

A new report published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recommends that a federal agency such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assume control over the US electric grid.

According to MIT Professor John Kassakian, the risk of security breaches or cyber attacks against the grid will increase exponentially as related infrastructure becomes more interconnected. 

Currently, no single agency has responsibility and authority for the entire grid. 

Although Kassakian believes the DHS could potentially be tasked with overseeing the grid, he does acknowledge that “thorny issues” related to authority over local distribution systems would need to be resolved, along with the formulation of strict rules to protect customer privacy.

“The government spent a lot of money on pilot programs and experiments, and installations of a lot of new equipment that can improve the efficiency and reliability of the grid and the management of demand,” Kassakian says. 

“But there needs to be more cooperation and communication about the results of those programs in order to get the benefits.”

Kassakian also noted that widespread sharing of data from real-time monitoring of the grid could help prevent some failures before they happen.

“If you’re aware of what’s happening at the same time everywhere, you can observe trends, and see what might be an incipient failure. That’s very useful to know, and allows better control of the system.”