Two Steps Forward – One Step Back –> The [re]introduction of retro devices to improve grid security

Retro Analog Tech a Danger to U.S. Power Grid (TheHill): According to a recent article by Cris Thomas, writing for TheHill, some recently introduced legislation in the Senate calls for a return to analog devices in order to improve the security of our grid infrastructure.  The article indicates that the goal of the legislation is to replace automated controls with older analog controls which are not susceptible to cyberattacks.  It is anticipated that in order to effectuate this a pilot program would be undertaken that would cost $10M and would take two years to identify analog devices that could be installed to isolate portions of the grid and prevent a crippling cyberattack, according to the article.  The article points out some of the shortcomings of this approach including the fact that merely being afraid of the future is a poor reason to retreat into the past.  Thomas asserts that it would be wiser to invest this $10M and two years into increasing cybersecurity rather than finding ways to return to an inefficient and error-prone analog world.


In some ways, this is positive in that we at least have legislators beginning to contemplate the potential ramifications to our power grid from a cyberattack.   However, the idea that we should transform our critical infrastructure to a point in time twenty years earlier in order to sidestep the cybersecurity issues is alarming in many respects.  This would be analogous to saying that e-mail is widely used for the propagation of malware and phishing scams and thus the best way to combat this is to return to standard postal mail for all communications or under exigent circumstances they might allow the use of the facsimile machine.  While in the short-term this might reduce e-mail based attacks and exploits attempting to stem the tide of technological progress seems an impossible task.  I for one would prefer that we take steps to understand the vulnerabilities of our critical infrastructure and that we make the necessary investment to address the most probable vulnerabilities and move from reactive to proactive and leverage technology instead of attempting to revert to a pre-technological era.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography