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Consumer smart grid programs, cyber security must mesh

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The public at large is concerned about privacy and security, as demonstrated by the alarm systems and blinds installed in homes as well as the special settings they can choose on Facebook. It's no wonder why the power sector, too, is putting a heavy focus on security and privacy. 

According to Intelligent Utility, privacy concerns range from the simple, such as sharing data on consumer energy use, to the complex, like smart appliances and the several access points intelligent grids create. The latter, especially, have grabbed the attention of larger industry bodies, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP). These organizations and others are working to learn what the different layers of privacy will mean to businesses, especially those involved in smart grid deployments.

All of this started a few years back when the U.S. government passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which allowed NIST to study cyber security and all aspects of it, such as privacy. In 2009, NIST formed a group that devoted all of its energy to dealing with privacy issues. The group is headed by Rebecca Herold, who has two decades of experience in privacy matters. 

Since its formation, the group has used data taken from volunteers who offer information on utilities, regulators, advocates and vendors. By 2010, the privacy division of NIST had released its findings, which in the last two years have helped paved the way for ensuring privacy in the power arena. 

"Back in 2010, there hadn't been a lot done with privacy as it relates to the smart grid," Herold said. "We needed to determine where the privacy issues were, which required a privacy impact assessment. We also included within the publication recommendations related to those findings and an overview of the legal issues. [NISTIR 7628 Vol. 2] really was the first official document to address privacy issues within the smart grid."

According to Electric Light & Power, privacy is currently a major topic of discussion at DistribuTECH 2013, one of the largest gatherings of smart grid professionals in the world. The event, which lasts all week, has already seen a number of big announcements, including San Diego Gas & Electric's move to partner with Candi Controls to develop an app that allows customers to check energy use on their phone. What's more, it's the first app to receive certification through the TRUSTed Smart Grid Privacy Program.

SUBNET's solutions not only ensure an efficient smart grid deployment, but also help utilities meet stringent NERC CIP regulations regarding cyber security. 

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The Complexities of Substation Cyber Security

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