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As more smart grid devices go active, need for cybersecurity grows

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, November 17, 2011

As the daunting introduction to Pike Research's Utility Cyber Security Research Report reads, "Utility cybersecurity is in a state of near chaos." Now, to create an advanced electric grid that utilizes efficient and productive methods and devices, an estimated $14 billion will be spent through 2018, with 63 percent of that devoted to smart grid security.

The grand investment will be necessary, as a recent demonstration showed that a $60 software had the capability to bypass the entire defense security system, Computer World reports.

The research report found that for years, vendors have been selling security systems to utilities at lower prices that promise compliance minimums rather than complete security. These sales have given hackers and other network mayhem-makers essentially free reign on the current system.

In a recent bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, officials warned that hackers had the ability to "gain access and trespass on control system networks very quickly," and that such actions would not take extensive skills but rather only the right equipment.

According to Kenneth Van Meter, general manger of energy and cyber services at Lockheed Martin, the country will have 440 million new hackable points on the smart grid by the end of 2015.

The known austerity of cybersecurity in the smart grid has led many utilities to seek expertise in the matter. SUBNET, a solutions provider that specializes in substation automation and remote access development, provides utilities with resources and information to ensure cybersecurity.

SUBNET offers solutions that help utilities in the generation, transmission and distribution sectors meet the requirements established by the North American Energy Reliability Corporation's (NERC) critical infrastructure protection standards.

Where many vendors require utilities to upgrade or replace existing hardware and software, SUBNET leverages a utility's current assets and incorporates its solutions into the company's established IT polices.

According to Mark Weatherford, NERC vice president and chief security officer, without meeting the requirements that SUBNET helps utilities meet, the risk of cyber attack is very real.

"The interoperable design of smart grids, unless carefully planned and operated, can provide avenues for intentional cyber-attack or the unintentional introduction of errors that impact bulk power system reliability," he stated.

Further testing of critical infrastructure security took place from November 15 through 17, in assessments which tested NERC's crisis response plans as well as its current preparedness to a cyber incident.  

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