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Smart grid security to bring headaches to utilities

By Max Burkhalter
April 29, 2014

While demand for smart grid projects and the benefits associated with them continues to rise, utilities will need to consider their investments carefully in order to avoid certain headaches related to these deployments. According to The Washington Post, one of the biggest problems providers may face moving forward is smart grid security, and acquiring the proper protection to eliminate cyber threats as they continue to adopt smart meters and increase the connectivity of their grid infrastructure.

As the utility industry evolves, the potential for hackers and other security challenges to cause natural disaster-level blackouts and outages increases as well. Advanced communications technologies, supported by serial to Ethernet converters and related smart grid hardware, open up exploitation opportunities that utilities will need to eliminate. Luckily, several firms are already on the job, looking to leverage existing security technologies for smart grid improvement.

"Most [tech companies] are trying to bring in business solutions, most of which have started out doing either security capabilities or cybersecurity from a different industry perspective, and then looking at how it applies to the smart-grid space," said Patrick Gannon, executive director of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.

Solutions like M2Mi - machine to machine intelligence - allow utilities to better protect their systems and any hardware connected in the Internet of Things system of operations, improving information management and protection. Further efforts will help align these resources with smart grid innovations and continued expansion.

Gannon noted that smart grids, particularly the extra dimensions that the electrical grid adds to machine to machine communications, present a unique challenge for security. As the industry is still evolving, it comes as little surprise that this means it is more challenging to eliminate these threats altogether.

Despite risks, smart grid improvements provide valuable advantages that utilities and their consumers cannot afford to ignore. By deploying higher-quality terminal servers and other hardware, as well as advanced systems in the substations and controllers across the network, firms can optimize their efforts. Staying on top of the latest security news and threats will also be of major assistance.

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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