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New electric grid comes with additional cybersecurity risks

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As the smart grid rollout continues across North America, the issue of cybersecurity has grown as well, as the new grid will be highly susceptible to hackers' attacks.

According to, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced an initiative to keep the country's grid safe from cyber attacks. The new measures are a part of the Obama Administration's efforts to improve the grid's reliability and security, and will hear expert advice from the power distribution industry and the public sector to develop an all-encompassing security strategy.

The initiative, titled the Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Management Maturity Project, is a necessary measure to protect America's critical infrastructure, Chu said.

"This initiative is another important step forward in improving the security of the Nation’s energy infrastructure and ensuring that the country’s electrical systems remain secure, reliable and resilient," says Secretary Chu. "Establishing a comprehensive cybersecurity approach will give utility companies and grid operators another important tool to improve the grid’s ability to respond to cybersecurity risks."

To get the program off the ground, officials from the Department of Energy, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security met on January 5 with dozens of senior leaders from the nation's electric sector. The DOE will hold several workshops with representatives from the private sector as well as a pilot program to develop a maturity model that can be utilized industry-wide, the media outlet stated.

The pilot program is expected to attract a number of electric utilities and grid operators to test the new model, analyze its efficacy and validate the results. Participants will help create a risk management model that would be available to the electric industry by summer.

According to The Energy Collective, the need for higher security will arise as smart grid begins to utilize bidirectional flows of electricity and information. Where the information is traveling to, or the "chain of custody," will be a major hallmark of smart grid security, and will question who has access to the data, why they have access and how it is protected.

Regulatory groups, such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, have developed requirements for utilities to follow to ensure the smart grid remains as safe as it is efficient.

SUBNET leverages utilities' existing hardware to comply with NERC CIP standards, enabling companies to transition easily into the new grid. 

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