Basin Electric employees participate in continent-wide security exercise

Basin Electric employees from several departments were among the thousands that took part in GridEx.

More than 50 Basin Electric employees took part in GridEx VI, a continent-wide security exercise held on Nov. 16-17.

Sponsored and administered by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the biennial exercise provided the electricity industry, government agencies, and other relevant organizations the opportunity to exercise incident response and recovery plans in response to simulated cyber and physical attacks and other contingencies affecting North America’s electricity system.

The goal of GridEx VI was to exercise the resilience of the North American electricity system in the face of a coordinated attack.

Basin Electric employees from several departments were among the thousands that took part in the scenarios. Amanda Wangler, Basin Electric senior electrical engineer, and James Sheldon, manager of Basin Electric’s security operations center, coordinated the cooperative’s role in the exercise. Representatives from Basin Electric membership and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) were also present as part of the exercise.

“This exercise provided an opportunity for Basin personnel to test their response and actions in the event of a physical or cyber incident,” Sheldon said. “We were fortunate to have several other organizations participate, making the exercise more realistic and allowing Basin Electric personnel to observe their response to an incident at the cooperative.”

Troy Tweeten, Basin Electric senior vice president of Operations; Brian Matthews, chief information officer and vice president of information services and telecom; Andy Buntrock, director of strategic planning and communications; Joe Fiedler, manager of distributed generation; Gene Giesen, manager of physical security; Daniel Graham, chief security and compliance officer; and Derik Johnson, manager of Transmission System Maintenance, led their teams through several scenarios involving coordinated physical and cyber-attacks on critical energy infrastructure.

“GridEx is an extremely useful exercise that tests Basin Electric’s and North America’s ability to respond to multiple scenarios,” Graham said. “We tested our technical knowledge to identify and recover from cyber attacks and our ability to coordinate with law enforcement and the intelligence community for physical attacks. We also tested our processes to meet time requirements and effectively communicate, as well as the relationships we developed with the FBI, North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center, Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council Cyber Mutual Assistance to help respond and recover as a team. From all of these tests, we found areas were we did well and areas we need to improve. Both are useful and give us the opportunity to align resources more effectively. Each time we complete an exercise, we grow stronger. The continuous improvement is thanks to all those who participated.”

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