Some Senate Republicans and Democrats want to see if unplugging critical parts of the power grid from the internet can help prevent digital attacks.
Their proposed $11.5 million Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (S. 3018) would commission the National Laboratories to study electricity companies willing to pull offline their most-vital control systems.
The idea behind the experiment with analog tech is to help identify — and remove — hidden vulnerabilities that could let in malware.
Bill sponsor Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, has asked the leaders of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing on the measure before the Senate leaves for the August work period, a King spokesman told Nextgov.
The 2-year trial program would start within two months after the bill is signed.
King spokesman Scott Ogden said the program does not exclude other possible solutions, and the analog technologies would only be used for the most mission-critical activities.
Companies would use nondigital controllers, physical controls and purpose-built control systems “to isolate and defend” these key systems from malware, according to the legislation.
Bill sponsors describe the proposal to use analog and human-operated techniques as a “retro” approach that has shown promise as a safeguard against cyberattacks.
Inspiration for the measure came from a December 2015 attack on a Ukrainian power grid that left 225,000 citizens in the dark. Attackers, suspected to be aiding the Russian government, targeted industrial control systems at three energy companies, U.S. Homeland Security Department officials have said. Bill supporters say the outage could have been worse if Ukraine was not…