Lisa O'Leary AGA Continues To Make Cybersecurity a Top Priority

The Internet touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night. It is involved with everything from the water in our homes to the e-mails we send at our offices. It’s the lifeline of networks in our hospitals, businesses and schools. It is connected to our elecricity grids and natural gas infrastructure. And it’s all at risk of a cyber attack every moment of every day – making cybersecurity one of our country’s most important national security priorities.

With over 2.4 million miles of pipeline, safety is the number one priority for the American Gas Association (AGA) and our members. Natural gas delivery systems have been targets of cyber-attacks. While this has not led to serious damages or disruption of our critical infrastructure, the intentions of those responsible are unknown.

“As a former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I too recognize the gravity of our nation’s cyber vulnerabilities,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “We are consistently working to improve the safety and security of our systems.”

AGA worked with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to develop Pipeline Security Guidelines. The Cybersecurity section effectively draws distinctions between critical and non-critical cyber assets and provides criteria to be followed in each. The guidance lays out a cybersecurity plan allowing operators the latitude to meet security goals in a fashion that best fits each of their individual operating system programs. For example, this gives gas/electric combination companies the flexibility to develop gas cybersecurity standards that do not conflict with existing electric cybersecurity regulations established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC).

The AGA Executive Committee has met with experts from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). AGA encourages our members to register with US-CERT to receive timely alerts and advice on mitigation and to use the Cybersecurity Evaluation Tool (CSET™) which provides users with a systematic and repeatable approach for assessing the security of their cyber systems and networks.

This September, AGA’s Natural Gas Security Committee hosted a cybersecurity workshop in Atlanta, GA for AGA staff and electric utility members who are directly responsible for addressing cybersecurity. And throughout the month of October, AGA is participating in National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), an annual program designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives. AGA will be posting weekly blog articles about cybersecurity topics, as well as daily content on our Facebook page and Twitter handle using the #NCSAM hashtag.

Threats to the natural gas industry continue to change and so we must remain active, engaged and vigalent. Ron Jibson , incoming Chair of AGA’s Board of Directors, has said he will continue to make cybersecurity a top priority. AGA is committed to helping our membership reduce the risk of cybersecurity attacks that could significantly affect their businesses and the nation’s energy infrastructure. Let us know how your organization is protecting against cybersecurity attacks in the comments section below.

Lisa O'Leary

About Lisa O'Leary

Lisa O'Leary is the Manager of Digital Communications for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Lisa served as Manager of Multimedia Communications for the Senator John Heinz History Center, "the Smithsonian's home in Pittsburgh," and as a Web Producer at WPXI-TV, Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh, PA. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Communications.
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