Amidst continuing cyberthreats from crafty computer
hackers, electric cooperatives are mounting sturdy defenses to safeguard
members’ digital data and ensure reliable power delivery.
Utilities are bulking up cybersecurity with tools from
the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the research arm of the Arlington,
Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). CRN’s
Guide to Developing a Risk Mitigation and Cyber Security Plan and
accompanying template help utilities of
all sizes craft a cybersecurity plan. The cooperatively
developed resources, free for any utility, have been downloaded more than
Three innovations promise to advance cybersecurity
efforts: pattern recognition software, an update of CRN’s revolutionary
Guide, and securing data.
Most home and business computer networks use a firewall —
a virtual barrier or hardware — to protect linked computers from hackers,
viruses, and other virtual invaders. Utilities use firewalls to secure
systems, too. But sophisticated cyberthreats make firewalls an aging
are less able to provide the level of security we require,” shares CRN
Program Manager Maurice Martin. “We want to make sure that our co-ops have
the tools they need to work securely.”
To meet the challenge, CRN’s developing a way to replace
firewalls with a
security tool that monitors computer network traffic. The
system memorizes the normal pattern of operation. When the system detects an
abnormal pattern (a possible intrusion), it sounds an alarm.
A Department of Energy grant of $3.6 million, with an
additional $1.1 million
from CRN and partner Honeywell Corp., funds the research.
Allies such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Carnegie Mellon
University, and Cigital Inc. will work with CRN to develop the cybersecurity
combine high-level functionality with an easy-to-use platform,” predicts
Craig Miller, chief scientist at CRN. “The system will simplify
cybersecurity management for small utilities with limited resources.”
But responding to emerging cyber-threats is not a
one-time effort. It requires constant education, awareness, and vigilance.
New resources — products, services, and educational tools — are on the way.
Threats to security — online and to the power grid — are
real. Hackers take pride in undermining computer systems and finding a
system’s Achilles’ heel. But thanks to innovative cloud computing, utilities
are discovering ways to work together to strengthen co-op security and
upgrade IT architecture.
turned to the Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) for its solid
understanding of the smart-grid marketplace and how new technologies can be
used to benefit the consumer member at the end of the line,” explains
That project aims to shore up technologies that capture,
store, and secure data and information. Once completed, this work will
benefit both co-ops and their members. SAIC is producing a series of reports
to help utilities fully implement the smart grid. The reports will evaluate
IT developments (cloud computing, new types of databases, and more) with an
eye toward how such developments can support the co-ops and even solve their
needs. The goal? SAIC will map out an
“IT architecture” to explain how the tools fit together
to maximize reliability,
customer service, and cybersecurity.
All utilities are vulnerable to digital invasions. But a
continually evolving set of cybersecurity resources and innovations should
help keep co-ops and their members a step ahead of the “bad guys.”
Source: Cooperative Research Network