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Guarding The Grid

Quietly and without much public recognition, the National Guard has been developing a sophisticated capability for cyberdefense.

Ned Miller

August 8, 2016

3 Min Read

A few weeks ago I was on Capitol Hill at an event sponsored by the Lexington Institute discussing the growing role of the National Guard in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure from cyberattacks -- specifically the electric power grid. Risks to US critical infrastructures are growing significantly; the Department of Homeland Security reported a seven-fold increase in cyber incidents on critical infrastructures between 2010 and 2015.

The ability to reliably generate and deliver electric power is foundational to modern civilization, and it is taken for granted by most of us. It is hard to imagine a more important function on which every individual, and the whole nation, depends. Those charged with the responsibility of protecting our critical infrastructures face great challenges. The electric power grid is highly distributed, with nearly 5,000 different entities of widely varying size and capacity generating and/or distributing energy.

Historically, the greatest threats to the reliable generation and delivery of energy were environmental such as major storms and natural disasters, but this is changing. Some portions of the grid are particularly vulnerable to physical attack. More significantly, the grid is the subject of increasing cyber penetrations and outright attacks. Last December, a relatively simple cyberattack on a portion of the Ukrainian power grid disrupted power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

A Growing Challenge

While there is general federal oversight and regulation of the electric power industry, most of the governance, regulation, and protection of the individual entities and their assets occur at the state and local level. Major technological and organizational changes -- notably the rise of distributed energy resources, the advent of the smart grid, and the creation of micro grids -- are changing the industry, adding more players and points of entry into the system. These changes are also increasing the difficulty of protecting the grid.

At the Lexington Institute event, I learned that the National Guard is uniquely positioned, in terms of authorities, responsibilities, and capabilities, to support the ongoing defense of the nation against such threats. The National Guard is state-based and able to respond across both state and federal lines of authority. Moreover, because they are embedded in their communities, National Guard units are particularly well suited to understanding and responding to local situations.

Quietly and without much public recognition, the National Guard has been developing a sophisticated capability for cyberdefense. In addition to meeting their defined requirements to support the active duty military, individual Guard units are shaping unique capabilities and operational concepts that reflect the specific conditions and needs of their states. Guard cyber units in California, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Washington, for example, have established collaborative relationships with local utilities. In some instances, Guard units and utilities have conducted joint exercises. Since no two states or utilities are exactly alike, this one-on-one collaboration is particularly important. It is also an approach well suited to the organization and operation of the National Guard.

With 54 states and territories, there is a real value to the National Guard as a laboratory for experimenting on ways to protect public and private infrastructure. Whether providing risk assessments, creating cyber centers of excellence, or collaborating with local companies on security training, the National Guard is always ready and always there.

About the Author(s)

Ned Miller

Intel Security, Chief Technology Strategist for Public Sector

Ned Miller, a 30+ year technology industry veteran, is the Chief Technology Strategist for the Intel Security Public Sector division. Mr. Miller is responsible for working with industry and government thought leaders and worldwide public sector customers to ensure that technology, standards, and implementations meet the challenges of information security and privacy issues today and in the future. In addition, Mr. Miller is also responsible for worldwide government certification efforts to ensure Intel's products comply with the latest global security standards and protocols.

Mr. Miller acts as the internal customer advocate within Intel's Security and advises Intel's executive leadership with strategies to drive government and cybersecurity requirements into Intel's products and services portfolio and guide Intel's policy strategy for the public sector, critical infrastructure, and threat-intelligence communities of interest.

Prior to joining Intel Security, Mr. Miller served in several executive, sales, business, technical, and corporate development leadership capacities. Most recently, Mr. Miller held executive sales and technical leadership positions with Hewlett Packard, including the Global Chief Technology Strategist for Hewlett Packard's Enterprise Security Products team. In addition, Mr. Miller worked for Symantec as the Corporate Development leader for Symantec's public sector organization responsible for advising sales leadership and driving innovative solution approaches in support of standards initiatives and programs such as next-generation security controls, Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), Cyber Scope, cloud and cloud security, FedRAMP, the latest in information protection methodologies for mobility, and next-generation identity management and authentication solutions. 

Before joining Symantec, Mr. Miller was the founder and CEO of the IT security firm Secure Elements.  Secure Elements was an early pioneer in the development of security standards. In addition, Mr. Miller has authored numerous whitepapers on enterprise security management and is the co-inventor of a series of next-generation network security patents. Mr. Miller is also recognized by the US Government as a subject-matter expert on the topic of security automation and information protection and is an active moderator and panelist across the IT industry.

Mr. Miller is also an active member on the NIST Security and Cloud Standards Working Groups, former chair of the Cyber Security SIG of the ISSA, and a member of AFCEA, CSIA, and Tech America's Cloud - State & Local Government Commission.

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