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Pipelines defend 'very active' cybersecurity stance after criticism of TSA


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Pipelines defend 'very active' cybersecurity stance after criticism of TSA

The head of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America said a U.S. Government Accountability Office audit that was critical of the Transportation Security Administration's oversight of U.S. pipelines' cybersecurity efforts does not mean the industry itself is not ready.

In a December 2018 report, the GAO found the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's TSA had not ensured that pipeline operators are properly evaluating their risk of an attack on important computer systems. The GAO said the security agency did not have a common understanding of the risks within this sector, its risk assessment measures were outdated, and it did not conduct a thorough analysis of which measures were effective.

At a Jan. 10. roundtable with reporters that covered the pipeline industry group's 2019 priorities, INGAA President and CEO Don Santa said the GAO report made valid points, but he said the TSA's faults do not fall on the pipeline industry. The media and the public should not interpret the report to mean that "pipelines are not doing a good job on cybersecurity or not giving it a very high priority," he said.

"We are very, very active in this area," Santa said.

The pipeline industry has faced other attacks on its reputation for security. The Trump administration, in an effort to boost support for nuclear and coal-fired electric power generation, questioned the readiness of the oil and gas industry to deal with both physical and cyber threats. At a charity dinner in West Virginia in July 2018, President Donald Trump said: "You bomb a pipeline, that's the end of the pipeline. With coal, that stuff is indestructible."

"We take objection to that," Santa said at the roundtable.

"We feel that natural gas and natural gas pipeline infrastructure is reliable [and] is resilient against both physical and cyber threats," Santa said. "But by the same token, this is a really dynamic area, one where you can't just stand back on your record to date. You've got to be constantly addressing these threats, constantly improving, and that's the part where working with our federal partners needs to continue."