Cyber attacks present some of the greatest threats to the energy sector. The energy sector plays a critical role in the state and economy, especially during this era of interconnection and smart devices. This makes it a prime target for cyber attackers. Attacks could create chaos by shutting down infrastructure. This could lead to an economic meltdown, damage to the environment, and a decrease in quality of life.

What the DHS is Doing

The United States recognizes the dangers involved with potential cyber attacks on the energy sector and is taking steps to combat such risks.

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that they are investing $5.9 million dollars into training their staff on how to better protect the energy sector. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate will be awarding the money to the Norwich University Applied Research Institute to bolster its training program. They will be incorporating a platform previously used in the finance sector called  Distributed Environment for Critical Infrastructure Decision-Making Exercises, or DECIDE.

DECIDE works by allowing trainees to enter an immersive online environment to practice responding to cyber-threats. This allows them to refine their skills before a real-life crisis should arise.

DECIDE’s History

DECIDE was first developed nearly ten years ago for use in the finance industry. The original exercises included activities such as responding to bad payments being sent to a stake-holder owned bank. The tool helped improve reactions to high-risk scenarios in addition to measuring their impact.

The Department of Homeland Security has been looking for a program that would encourage interaction and help create standard sector-based responses to cyber attacks. Although DECIDE was previously used in the finance sector, the program helps foster collaboration and provides immersive training, benefits that can easily be carried over to the DHS.  

How DECIDE Works

Trainees enter a realistic, scenario-based situation. Employees have to collaborate during high-stress events, just as they would in real life. The platform is also advanced enough to adapt based on people’s decisions, meaning that they will have to handle the consequences of their actions.

The great advantage of DECIDE is that it prepares trainees to combat threats in the energy sector before they occur without exposing any security weaknesses during the process.

Initial test exercises will begin during the next twelve months. The final program is expected to be complete within three years.