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NRECA Cybersecurity Technology Sees Rapid Adoption During 100-Day Federal Initiative

July 30, 2021
Fifty-seven electric co-ops to deploy government-approved Essence 2.0 technology, anonymously share security and threat data with trusted partners.

As the Biden administration's 100-day electric sector cybersecurity initiative concludes, an additional 52 electric cooperatives have committed to use the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA's) Essence technology to share their anonymized cybersecurity and threat data with trusted government partners. This expands the commitment among electric cooperatives to join the public-private effort to enhance national cyberthreat detection, mitigation, and forensic capabilities.

As part of the 100-day initiative, the NRECA and the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) have consulted with the DOE's Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) to inform future recommendations for protecting the U.S. electric system from persistent and sophisticated cyberthreats.

Fifty-seven electric co-ops will deploy the government-approved Essence 2.0 technology and anonymously share their security and threat data with trusted partners. Six other cooperatives will use another technology platform for a similar purpose.

"Information sharing, technology development, and coordination among industry and government partners are essential for strengthening electric sector cyber defenses," said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. "Real-time visibility into what's happening across several different systems is important as the government and private sectors work together to minimize blind spots and identify attacks in their infancy."

The NRECA will continue engaging in the ongoing conversation about cybersecurity across the electric sector while also working with electric cooperatives and other stakeholders to expand the adoption of technologies like Essence, highlighted during the 100-day initiative.

Essence 2.0 is an anomaly-detection platform that uses operational technology sensors to identify and warn of possible network breaches in real time. The NRECA received US$6 million from the DOE last fall to further develop the technology and was recently awarded US$3.9 million from the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to expand the program.

"As this groundbreaking technology is rapidly deployed, it will work in unison with a growing suite of platforms to pilot a heightened sense of awareness and cyber-readiness," said Matheson. "We look forward to continuing this meaningful partnership with the federal government to meet our shared objective of enhancing cybersecurity in the electric sector."

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