The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the Operational Technology (OT) Defender Fellowship, another step toward defending the critical infrastructure that underpins America’s security and prosperity. The OT Defender Fellowship program is a collaboration with DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI) that will deepen the cybersecurity knowledge of key U.S. front-line critical infrastructure defenders.

The year-long OT Defender Fellowship program is for operational technology security managers throughout the energy sector. The program will allow these security managers to engage with cyber and national security experts across the U.S. government to gain a greater understanding of the strategies and tactics of America’s adversaries and how U.S. government cyber operators defend our nation.

“Operational technology security managers keep the core physical systems of our energy infrastructure running smoothly in the face of natural disasters, physical sabotage, and nation-state cyberattacks,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “In support of the President’s Cybersecurity Workforce Executive Order, the Department of Energy is proud to support this elite training program to create opportunities to grow America’s cyber workforce.”

The Fellowship aligns with the bipartisan recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC).

“The Cyberspace Solarium Commission report advocates for operationalizing cybersecurity collaboration with the private sector and reshaping how the U.S. government coordinates with the private sector; these steps are central to our collective defense. There is no question that this new DOE initiative will better protect our country from cyberattacks," said Sen. Angus King, CSC co-chair.

Added Trevor Daughney, Vice President, product marketing at Exabeam, "Critical infrastructure is particularly vulnerable because while IT must ensure that data is secure, it’s more important for OT to be up and running. These control networks and devices are generally legacy systems running on older operating systems and are also rather fragile. Even a vulnerability scan has been known to break a PLC or void a warranty -- there is a delicate balance between system design and the often understaffed team needed to protect it. And this is likely exacerbated by the current climate."

Click here for more on the fellowship program.