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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the establishment of a new cybersecurity office to help protect and prepare the energy sector, including the oil and gas industry.

Named the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, or CESER, the new office received nearly $96 million in funding for the 2019 fiscal year.

According to a press release by DOE, the new CESER office will be led by an Assistant Secretary that will focus on energy infrastructure security, support the expanded national security responsibilities assigned to the Department and report to the Under Secretary of Energy.

“DOE plays a vital role in protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure from cyber threats, physical attack and natural disaster, and as Secretary, I have no higher priority,” said Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy.

“This new office best positions the Department to address the emerging threats of tomorrow while protecting the reliable flow of energy to Americans today,” added Perry.

DOE noted that the creation of the CESER office will elevate its focus on energy infrastructure protection while enabling more coordinated preparedness and response to both natural and man-made threats.

Cyber-attacks have become a growing concern for utilities, particularly after the Ukraine power outage in 2015.

A 2017 report by Accenture, which surveyed 100 utility executives from over 20 countries, revealed that 57 percent of respondents saw an interruption to the power supply from cyberattacks as their most serious concern.

Roughly 63 percent of respondents globally said they believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of a cyberattack on the electric grid in the next five years.

Meanwhile, in North America, even more utility executives (76 percent) found an imminent cyberattack likely.

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