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Experts say more smart grid security standards are needed

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, April 30, 2012

A recent survey conducted by information risk and security performance management leader nCircle found that of 104 security experts working in the energy and utility industry, 90 percent say better smart grid security standards are needed.

The survey found 75 percent of energy security professionals do not believe smart grid cyber security is where it needs to be, while another 72 percent believe smart grid standards are not being developed fast enough to keep up with the rapid rate of new deployments.

"Security has been addressed to varying degrees in many smart grid deployments, however it is going to be a challenge to keep pace with the constantly changing security landscape," said EnergySec CEO Patrick Miller. "The analog and mechanical devices installed in most utilities were designed for a very different maintenance model than newer digital equipment being designed and installed today."

Elizabeth Ireland, vice president of marketing for nCircle, added that the information made it clear that the leaders in the industry do not feel comfortable with current standards that have been drafted for smart grid technologies.

"Defining and implementing meaningful security standards is always a challenge but without standards, adoption of critical security controls across the smart grid industry is likely to be uneven at best," she said.

According to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, computer science researchers at the institution are currently working to address the new generation of cyber security issues to keep viruses and attackers from causing outages and harmful disruptions to the power distribution system.

The team of researchers at the university is one of few in America that are addressing smart grid cyber security issues. The research being performed is touted to potentially lead to technology that helps prevent major disruptions. The work could also help redefine cyber security.

"Most people think of cybersecurity as something that happens in a computer network," says Tom Roth of St. Louis, a Ph.D. student in computer science. "But on the smart grid...We're concerned about information disclosure. We're asking, 'Can an attacker figure out, from the information being released on the grid, what part of the network might be most stressed and most vulnerable to attack?'"

SUBNET is a part of the move to ensure smart grid deployments are secure, and uses a company's existing electric infrastructure to comply with strict NERC CIP standards. 

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