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Smart grid security not about strictly following standards

By Max Burkhalter
February 13, 2012
Securing smart grid deployments is emerging as one of the more important steps in the technology's widespread implementation. While smart grid's use of networking infrastructure and other advanced technologies to streamline energy delivery, provide more control of the utility grid and improve power distribution reliability is making the technology popular, it also creates risks. The rising sophistication of hackers and recent prevalence of data breaches has raised awareness about the need for cybersecurity mechanisms in smart grid deployments. However, industry expert Ernie Hayden recently explained that directly following existing standards is not the solution to securing smart grid setups, Renew Grid reported.

In a webinar hosted by Pike Research, Hayden explained that there are currently multiple standards in existence pertaining to smart grid security, but none of them are sufficient to work as stand-alone solutions. In response, utility providers need to pick and choose elements from the primary regulations, figure out what works for them and adapt their security protocols for their specific needs, the report said.

The first primary standard involved in this dynamic is the NERC critical infrastructure protection regulation. According to Hayden, the CIP directive deals with technologies existing within the bulk transmission grid. Smart grid does not fit within that demographic. As a result, there are nuances in smart grid setups that are not covered by CIP. This makes the standard a solid starting point for securing smart grid, but not a complete solution, according to the news source.

Similarly, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Internal Reports 7628 protocol is also a handy standard for smart grid systems. However, Hayden explained that this advice provides reasonably solid guidance, but it is so broad that utility providers can experience challenges choosing the right advice to follow, the report said.

Because no single standard completely addresses smart grid vulnerabilities, Hayden said operators should combine elements of each, shifting operations as new needs arise, according to the Renew Grid.

Securing smart grid setups effectively is essential to the technology's long-term success. Smart grid has the potential to completely revolutionize the utility grid, making it more sustainable, reliable and effective. However, if it cannot be secured, the technology could create too much risk. Despite these concerns, security improvements are continually being developed, reducing risks and opening the market for new smart grid deployments.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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