Seattle, Washington – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) delivered opening remarks at a symposium with leading experts regarding the needed urgency in addressing cybersecurity preparedness in the energy sector and to learn about higher education’s efforts in preparing the workforce to address the cybersecurity talent deficit.
“Cybersecurity is an issue that keeps me up at night; the grid, its critical infrastructure, and the fact that it is under attack from the Russians and other foreign actors,” said Senator Cantwell. “If we do not make the necessary investments against these cyber attacks, our enemies could succeed in causing a blackout that harm our economy.”
“The Pacific Northwest National Lab, in their report on cybersecurity firewall, blocks 24 million suspected internet communications, 25,000 of them are confirmed cyber-attacks,” said Senator Cantwell. “With each day, cybersecurity threats to our grid evolve and multiply, and we cannot sit idly by. The only way we are going to effectively combat these security risks is through putting the right people in place. Now is the time for action.”
There are currently 10,000 unfilled energy cybersecurity professionals at electric utilities, with another 15,000 or so in the balance of the rest of the energy sector. “That’s about 25,000 unmet energy security positions today,” said Senator Cantwell. “The workforce challenge is especially acute in the energy sector, as these positions are more difficult to fill given the relatively specialized knowledge needed to secure industrial control systems, which is different from the standard information technology.”
“The Bi-partisan Energy Bill I worked on with Senator Murkowski includes a requirement that the Department of Energy develop curricula for energy sector-related cybersecurity, as well establishes as a workforce advisory board with a cybersecurity component,” said Senator Cantwell. “And that is why I am calling for a cross sector, collaborative effort among all elements of our state’s cyber leadership.”
“I am so impressed with what the University of Washington’s pioneering cybersecurity program has been able to achieve,” said Senator Cantwell. “Among those efforts, T-Mobile helped ensure that these students are prepared and ready to contribute immediately upon graduation.”