Smart Grid Security Layers

Friday, October 11, 2013 @ 05:10 PM gHale

Smart grid is a catch all buzz phrase to talk about the future of the power industry, but the fact remains the topic of security still seems a bit nebulous.

The smart grid provides a network for consumers and energy providers to better regulate the flow and demand of energy, allowing real-time data analysis and the remote control of energy use down to the device level. But are they secure? They are not immune to attack, and while utilities can benefit from improving the efficiency of energy flow, they are also responsible for keeping hackers out of the network.

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If cyber attackers strike and infiltrate the network, they may be able to shut down core services in a city.

“In this data-rich, ultra-connected digital world, with breaches on the rise fueled by hacktivism targeting specific companies and high profile brands, security naturally becomes a greater concern particularly for ICS environments in critical infrastructure such as utility companies,” said Leslie Nemitoff, with security services at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

The smart grid market should grow from $33 billion in 2012 to $73 billion by the end of 2020, according to Verizon. In order to protect this expanding market, Verizon said there are four key layers utilities and developers need to consider in order to protect smart grids:
• Physical layer: How are the smart grid components protected physically?
• Cyber security layer: How are the smart grid components and systems protected from cyber hack and attack?
• Privacy: How does the smart meter data end up protected so a customer’s privacy remains intact?
• Storage: Just what do you do with all the data generated by the smart grid and how do you protect it?

“When it comes to securing assets, a one-sized fits all security posture may result in some organizations under-protected from targeted attacks while others potentially over-spend on defending against simpler opportunistic attacks,” Nemitoff said.

“By understanding and interpreting complex customer requirements through a risk-based approach, we can create customized assessment packages and help owners and operators of industrial control systems for utilities both define and manage the risk that often accompany the deployment of multifaceted technologies like the smart grid.”

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