Kentucky government officials, law enforcement and private-sector representatives ran through a worst-case scenario test on Wednesday, preparing for how the state would react if hackers took down the power grid to a quarter of the state while simultaneously attempting to steal data from government computer networks.
The exercise comes amid the growing rise of hacking incidents, including hacks of the Democratic National Committee, with U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is pointing the finger at Russia, saying the foreign nation is trying to influence the presidential election.
Fifty participants attended the theoretical training exercise hosted by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security.
“A primary goal of the initiative is for states to develop strategies for strengthening cyber security practices across the Commonwealth,” explained KOHS Executive Director John Holiday in a press release. “The summit brings together state policy leaders, as well as private sector experts and federal partners, to highlight innovative practices and identify ways in which state-driven solutions can be replicated nationwide.”
KOHS Director of Public Affairs and Community Outreach Mike Sunseri told Pure Politics on Wednesday that Holiday stressed the “critical importance” of having a critique of the event which was guided in part by federal partners.
During the last half hour of the exercise, the group broke down how separate entities were able to deal with the ever-changing situation. Participants in the training included the Commonwealth Office of Technology, U.S. Deptartment of Homeland Security, FBI, Department of Corrections, Kentucky National Guard, Kentucky State Police, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department of Revenue, Finance Cabinet and private-sector representatives from Louisville Gas and Electric.
The main shortfall exposed during the exercise was a lack of communication between the disparate entities included in the training. Sunseri said that lack of communication is “typical during an exercise like that.”
As an example, Sunseri said different groups like the Commonwealth Office of Technology and Kentucky National Guard each have their own action plans on how to enact crisis plans, but when a crisis event occurs it does not impact just one entity, but rather a large spectrum of government and private sector groups.
“It is only through intense and objective analysis that best practices be disseminated, which is why our Kentucky Intelligence Fusion Center assembles and shares information with our collaborative partners throughout Kentucky,” Holiday said in a statement.
Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton also participated in the exercise. With more of the state’s infrastructure moving online, Hampton said building a network of defense against cyber attacks is “critical for Kentucky.”