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NERC, utilities unite to ask for more information on cyber security threats

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, June 07, 2012

The leader of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and electric utility officials from across the country are urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide executives with greater security clearances to improve their access to cyber threats targeting the country's power grid.

Platts reports speakers discussed the potential clearances at the recent Edison Electric Institute's annual meeting. Currently, NERC CEO and president Gerry Cauley has the highest possible clearance from the government to review the threats facing America's critical infrastructure, as well as hackers' attempts to gain access to the grid. However, NERC officials below Cauley have restricted access to such files, which Cauley says should change.

Cauley stated that because various agencies can gain clearance to the information, and the government sometimes "moves slow," regarding cyber security, NERC is working alongside the Department of Energy to expedite the security clearance process for NERC executives.

Laws are currently making their way through Congress that would require utilities to improve their information sharing strategies and increase their cyber security measures, however, "we can't solve a problem we don't really know about," said Joe Rigby, chairman, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings.

The legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives, and will now move on to the Senate, where a bill sponsored by Senator John McCain is being introduced that would increase the amount of information that is divulged between companies in the power industry and the government, according to the news source.

However, even if both bills are passed, it may not be the silver bullet for power grid security. Scott Aaronson, director of government relations at the Edison Electric Institute, stated that information sharing "is not the 'be all end all' of cybersecurity, but it's a good first step."

Ido Dubrawksy, leader of the security engineering arm at Itron, added that more deployments of smart grid technologies should encourage utilities to hold vendors accountable for supplying products that comply with security standards and software that leaves no vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit, the media outlet stated.

SUBNET's products and software are designed to meet the strict standards that have been established by NERC, and will also address the growing problem of interoperability among smart grid devices. 

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