Some states report utilities boosting security

States are becoming more security conscious in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and reports of attempts to breach electric utility computer systems.

The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) said past incidents of alleged sabotage included an improper mix of pellets in fuels fabricated for commercial nuclear plants. It also warned of more than 230,000 unauthorized attempts to connect to company computers via the internet in 1 month, including more than 86,000 attempts from China.

Texas electric utilities have boosted security measures resulting from the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, state regulators said Tuesday. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker created a task force on security and asked members to submit a report and recommendations no later than Nov. 20.

The Texas Public Utility Commission surveyed the large electric and telephone providers around the state to determine additional emergency plans and security measures implemented in the past month. Electric and telecommunications providers reported taking the following extra security measures:

— Increasing security for computer information and software systems.

— Updating reviews of service restoration plans.

— Adding facility patrols.

— Providing more security training for employees.

— Upgrading identification requirements.

— Prohibiting nonessential staff from critical areas.

Texas PUC Commissioner and member of the state Homeland Defense Task Force Becky Klein said the agency continues to work with the electric and telecommunications industries to identify critical issues concerning infrastructure security.

While some security measures may require confidentiality to ensure safety, Klein noted the task force has authority to meet in closed session in order to get information about confidential security matters.

Pennsylvania PUC Chairman Glen R. Thomas said one focus of the Pennsylvania task force will be protecting critical infrastructure, such as natural gas and electric transmission lines, electric generation facilities, and water supply systems.

“We will continue to contact you for information and input as we move forward,” he said. “We will treat sensitive material with the propriety it warrants.”

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