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Understanding the challenges of securing the smart grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, December 03, 2012

As smart grid installations grow increasingly complex, utilities and vendors will need to understand equally complex cyber security techniques in order to stay protected from attacks, which will require intense planning and coordination from the onset, Government Information Security reports.

According to the news source, the smart grid is a part of the nation's critical infrastructure, however it is unlike any other component in that millions of nodes installed by businesses, governments and residences create a highly connected network. These technologies are used to retrieve data on the efficiency of the grid, customer usage and other distribution information. While this is revolutionary for the industry, there is one drawback: Within every one of these millions of nodes is a new vulnerability a hacker could exploit.

Konstantinos Moulinos, a network and information security and critical information infrastructure protection expert for the European Network and Information Security Agency, recently stated that if companies are going to stay safe from these dangers, they will need to develop the security and processes needed for the smart grid immediately. If they don't, the tremendous benefits of the smart grid may not be realized, and the entire system could be setup to fail.

"We need more coordination and more cooperation," he said in a recent interview with Information Security Media Group's Eric Chabrow on the European smart grid.

Moulinos added that in Europe's case, the entire region will need to work together to develop improved cyber security standards.

"I would say that standardization is the best way to set up the rules of the game from the very beginning," he said.

Moulinos added that regulation will be a major part of the smart grid revolution because it will help structure deployments, which will make it easier to identify unique risk-assessment methodologies that will be used in varying scenarios.

"Security is a target," Moulinos says. "[But] there's no absolute security. We're trying to mitigate the risk. We try to find the tools in order to mitigate this risk."

In the U.S., utilities must comply with strict standards established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which can lead to major fines if violated. SUBNET's line of software can help companies comply with these standards as they work to drive up operational efficiency with new smart grid technologies. 

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