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Kosovo* delegation visits US within cybersecurity program

Kosovo delegation visits US cybersecurity cooperation

Photo: William Polen / LinkedIn

Published

April 29, 2023

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Published:

April 29, 2023

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A delegation from Kosovo* has recently visited the United States Energy Association and government institutions as part of a cybersecurity program. The US administration’s initiatives in the sector in the Western Balkans are aimed at enhancing resilience and response capabilities. A special focus is on critical infrastructure cybersecurity, including the provision of US-developed technology.

A government delegation from Kosovo* led by Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Blerim Gashani has visited the premises of the United States Energy Association (USEA). The industry body’s Senior Director William Polen said he spoke with the officials about cybersecurity priorities for critical infrastructure operators and acquainted them with the Just and Secure Energy Transition Program for Europe and Eurasia.

As governments and utilities gradually digitalize the energy sector, it faces cybersecurity vulnerabilities

The meeting was part of the activities of US institutions in the cybersecurity sphere in the Western Balkans and the countries of the wider Southeastern European region. Over the past several years, critical infrastructure such as telecommunications and e-services has emerged as particularly important. As governments and utilities gradually digitalize the energy sector, it has been identified as potentially vulnerable as well.

The delegation also visited the Pentagon, US Congress and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for discussions on critical infrastructure cybersecurity but also climate impact in the sector and extremism risks.

Enhancing regional energy sector resilience

The Just and Secure Energy Transition Program, JSET, is a joint undertaking with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Enhancing regional energy sector resilience and response capabilities to disasters and extreme events is among its objectives.

One initiative is to provide US-developed technology, both equipment and software, that would increase the renewable energy absorptive capacity of the regional power grid and cross-border transmission capacity. A separate mechanism is for transmission system operators and regulators to develop network models and analyses for the national and regional baseload electricity generation and flexibility capacities.

Cybersecurity projects underway with Albania’s power utilities

JSET has recently launched technical support projects with Albania’s state-owned electricity producer KESH and transmission system operator OST, following a pilot initiative. The goal is to strengthen their digital assets against cyberattacks and make them more resilient when they are compromised.

Electricity supply disruptions from cyberattacks on critical infrastructure can jeopardize national and regional energy security.

A cybersecurity strategy program with capacity building is being conducted in North Macedonia

Through the Critical Infrastructure Digitalization and Resilience regional activity, USAID is supporting the Government of North Macedonia in finalizing the legal framework for the National Cybersecurity Strategy. The program covers threat identification and information sharing, including on a regional level, as well as capacity building. It lasts until September 2026.

One of the main challenges in the country and the Western Balkans in general is a lack of a skilled workforce in the sector, alongside an obsolete education system and a massive brain drain.

USAID and USEA are also organizing Cyber Resiliency Challenge exercises for power transmission and distribution utilities in Europe and Eurasia including the Balkans.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
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