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WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled plans to improve cybersecurity for the US electric power system to address growing concerns about a potentially crippling hack of the power grid.

The initiative announced by the White House and Energy Department calls for a joint public-private effort over the coming 100 days to modernize utilities’ control systems which could be vulnerable to hackers.

“The United States faces a well-documented and increasing cyber threat from malicious actors seeking to disrupt the electricity Americans rely on to power our homes and businesses,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “It’s up to both government and industry to prevent possible harms — that’s why we’re working together to take these decisive measures so Americans can rely on a resilient, secure, and clean energy system.”

No specific funding was announced for the initiative, which comes after experts have cited increased cyber threats to so-called critical infrastructure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some reports said hundreds of utilities and related services were infected with malware as part of the massive SolarWinds breach.

White House national security spokesperson Emily Horne the 100-day plan “includes aggressive but achievable milestones and will assist owners and operators as they modernize cybersecurity defenses, including enhancing detection, mitigation, and forensic capabilities.”

Officials said the plan encourages operators to upgrade systems that enable near “real time situational awareness” in the face of cyber threats.

“The safety and security of the American people depend on the resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Brandon Wales, acting director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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