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Keeping the future smart grid secure

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, June 04, 2012

As remote connections and other smart grid technologies are deployed around the country, the energy industry is encountering a new element that could prove to be its hardest to face yet: Cyber security.

According to Oil Price, utilities once were most concerned with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires, all of which are capable of knocking out wide swaths of transmission lines. In response, the energy industry created more power generation sites that were closer to load centers. Also, due to the bottom-up approach to building the grid, the process of connecting utilities for backup power sources is highly fragmented, with four large power grids, as opposed to one sprawling network.

Maintaining reliability across the grid has always been the focus of utilities, which are expected to keep the lights on and repair problems when they go out. But in the future, these issues could come from remote cyber attacks that are meant to cripple the country's electric infrastructure, rather than inflict physical damage.

To mitigate the risks of cyber attack, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) were formed to ensure all smart grid deployments adhered to similar safety protocol despite the changing landscape of the U.S. power network.

According to the media outlet, these regulatory bodies are necessary for combating new threats, such as Stuxnet and the recently discovered Flame, that have proven to be damaging in Iran's nuclear facilities. These damages could swing and be directed at North America's power grids, driving NERC to take preventative measures and execute procedural measures consistently across the wide range of utilities and regional transmission companies throughout the country.

A number of procedures will go into future-proofing the smart grid, including visual network analysis, artificial market simulation scenario analytics and automation, which will require the integration of new tools and older infrastructure. When properly aligned, these properties will help ensure the smart grid has been outfitted with the necessary security.

SUBNET has designed several products that not only allow for more efficient utility operations, but adhere to the NERC CIP standards that have been established and are strictly enforced. SUBNET's SubSTATION Explorer allows utilities to view and control from one location all information gathered from various substations, with the appropriate security measures enforced by NERC. 

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The Complexities of Substation Cyber Security

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