War-game test to be launched on electric grid, despite arrest of CEO

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A utility-industry war game will proceed this week, despite Friday’s arrest of Gerry Cauley, the CEO of the group hosting the major two-day exercise.

North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is hosting the event meant to test the energy grid’s ability to withstand an attack. Cauley was arrested on a domestic violence charge involving his wife and was held briefly on a misdemeanor charge of battery and family violence in Gwinnett County Jail near Atlanta.

The NERC board of trustees have placed Cauley on a leave of absence, according to a statement released by the company. It read:

“NERC is aware of the personal incident involving Gerry Cauley of NERC. Cauley is on a leave of absence from duties at NERC until further notice. The NERC Board of Trustees has named Charles Berardesco, who has served as NERC’s senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, as acting CEO and are taking steps to ensure the work of NERC continues seamlessly.”

GridEx IV won’t be affected, said NERC spokeswoman Kimberly Mielcarek, in an email sent to the Washington Examiner, speaking of the Nov. 15-16 exercise. The drills conducted at the event will attempt to combat cyber attacks targeting the U.S. grid.

NERC is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority charged by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to assure the reliability and security of the bulk power system in North America through the development and enforcement of Reliability Standards. NERC seeks to ensure uninterrupted electricity flow and to guard against physical and cyber attacks.

According to recent NERC reports, attempts to access the U.S. grid are on the rise. North Korea and Iran have both been reported to have an interest in hacking the U.S. infrastructure.

Simulating unknown attackers, the drills conducted at GridEx IV will launch physical and cyber-based attacks on power plant control centers, transmission lines, and other electricity infrastructure.

According to an op-ed penned by Cauley on Nov. 2, the GridEx exercise has become an “integral part of how industry and government partners prepare for, and respond to, disasters and emergencies that impact the energy grid.”

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