Edison on the Front Lines of the War on Cyberattacks

SCE’s parent helps lead electric industry, government partnership to safeguard the expanding power grid from cybercriminals.
Apr 27, 2023 9:35 AM ET

Energized by Edison

As Southern California Edison expands the electric grid to support a clean energy future, a wide range of interconnected resources — utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects, large energy storage facilities and climate change-resilient distribution networks — will be needed to accomplish the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045

That presents a daunting cybersecurity challenge. As those interconnected networks multiply the digital attack surface, criminals bent on exploiting vulnerabilities for political or financial gain are also expanding their capabilities. The nightmare scenario of a cyberattack on the electric grid sparking an economic catastrophe is not merely a theoretical risk. 

“A single significant cyber event has the potential to trigger widespread cascading failures spanning multiple sectors across the country,” said Pedro Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO, at this month’s CERAWeek energy industry conference. “Without power, our country’s communications, water and transportation systems risk degrading or failing completely.”

Pizarro told CERAWeek attendees that Edison International fended off almost a billion unauthorized attempts to access the company’s networks last year. A companywide “defense-in-depth” strategy is being used to deflect those attemptsand stop cybercriminals “making it past the first moat” and gaining insider-like access to proprietary networks. 

“Cybersecurity is no longer a single team or department. Every Edison employee plus our contractors are part of our cybersecurity team,” Pizarro said. “We all train, demonstrate and continuously improve our cyberdefense skills — identifying phishing attempts, reporting malicious cyber activity and protecting critical data.” 

Appearing with Pizarro was Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. She said the biggest threat facing the nation’s utility industry comes not from Russia, which is bogged down in a war with Ukraine, but rather from China. 

“Russia is the hurricane, and China is climate change,” Easterly said.

Easterly and Pizarro agreed that securing critical infrastructure will require cooperation from all stakeholders, including energy companies working together to share threat information and defensive practices, as well as working with the government to build relationships before a potential crisis occurs. 

Pizarro said Edison is striving to be a leader in creating resilient networks to support the grid, which undercuts the goals of those who may try to attack it. “We ask ourselves every day: ‘are we doing enough to defend against adversaries that may want to disrupt power flow? Are we doing enough to stop the cybercriminals who may want to exploit our customer or employee data?’” 

Pizarro added that “the electric power industry is the backbone of other critical infrastructure sectors. Our resilience challenge is about protecting critical infrastructure and meeting our climate goals by building consumer confidence in a secure, clean energy future.” 

To learn more about Edison’s clean energy initiatives, visit edison.com/clean-energy.