Risk
12/6/2011
12:32 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Smart Grid Security Threatened By Fragmented Control

MIT study finds smart grid cybersecurity led by fiefdoms, says central leadership would better protect the nation's power lines from hackers.

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The United States government should consolidate the currently splintered operational control of cybersecurity in the emerging smart power grid under the authority of one federal agency, according to a two-year study by a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study, which set out to analyze whether the U.S. power grid is prepared for technologies and power sources over the next 20 years, recommended a host of policy changes to gird the grid against coming challenges, including new powers and authorities regarding the emerging smart grid, particularly around cybersecurity.

Currently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation are empowered to create and police cybersecurity standards for power plants, but no organization has oversight over the grid itself, and states are headed in their own directions. In addition, the agencies with cybersecurity responsibilities aren't working together enough, the study found.

[ Cybersecurity is one part of the feds' four-pillar smart grid plan. Learn about the other three: White House Unveils National Smart Grid Strategy Framework. ]

"To cope more effectively with increasing cybersecurity threats, a single federal agency should be given responsibility for cybersecurity preparedness, response, and recovery across the entire electric power sector, including both bulk power and distribution systems," the report says. "Ongoing jurisdictional confusion raises security concerns, underscoring the need for action."

That's a point of major concern for a power system that the MIT report points out will soon see massive growth in the amount of data flowing over its lines as smart meters and synchophasors (devices that measure and help optimize power transmission) come online and power companies begin to push more and more data-enabled services over power lines.

"With the collection, transmission, processing, and storage of increasing amounts of information also comes heightened concern for protecting the privacy of that information," the report said. Information on personal electricity use habits, for example, will become more widely available to electric companies than ever before.

Hackers, not just the corporations themselves, will likely be interested in this data and opportunities to disrupt the grid. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that Chinese and Russian government hackers were likely already looking for points of cyber weakness in the smart grid.

Various observers and policymakers also have argued for a centralized point of authority for smart grid cybersecurity, with various parties arguing for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, or the current electricity and energy regulatory bodies. MIT didn't recommend any particular agency over any other, but said designating one should be a high priority.

In addition to better management of cybersecurity, the MIT researchers recommended that the government spend more on research and development into procedures for response to and recovery from cyberattacks on the grid.

Cybersecurity wasn't the only IT fix the MIT study recommended to bolster the power grid in the future. The researchers also suggested that the energy industry do more R&D into using IT for bulk power system operations and planning for power transmission over wide geographic areas.

In this new Tech Center report, we profile five database breaches--and extract the lessons to be learned from each. Plus: A rundown of six technologies to reduce your risk. Download it here (registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2011 | 2:44:02 AM
re: Smart Grid Security Threatened By Fragmented Control
Interesting. Ponemon Institute put out a study earlier this year that found that there were a number of security gaps at many utility companies:
http://www.darkreading.com/sec...
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
renttester
50%
50%
renttester,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2012 | 11:12:44 AM
re: Smart Grid Security Threatened By Fragmented Control
thanks for sharing
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-5084
Published: 2015-08-02
The Siemens SIMATIC WinCC Sm@rtClient and Sm@rtClient Lite applications before 01.00.01.00 for Android do not properly store passwords, which allows physically approximate attackers to obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5352
Published: 2015-08-02
The x11_open_helper function in channels.c in ssh in OpenSSH before 6.9, when ForwardX11Trusted mode is not used, lacks a check of the refusal deadline for X connections, which makes it easier for remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via a connection outside of the permitted time ...

CVE-2015-5537
Published: 2015-08-02
The SSL layer of the HTTPS service in Siemens RuggedCom ROS before 4.2.0 and ROX II does not properly implement CBC padding, which makes it easier for man-in-the-middle attackers to obtain cleartext data via a padding-oracle attack, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-3566.

CVE-2015-5600
Published: 2015-08-02
The kbdint_next_device function in auth2-chall.c in sshd in OpenSSH through 6.9 does not properly restrict the processing of keyboard-interactive devices within a single connection, which makes it easier for remote attackers to conduct brute-force attacks or cause a denial of service (CPU consumptio...

CVE-2015-1009
Published: 2015-07-31
Schneider Electric InduSoft Web Studio before 7.1.3.5 Patch 5 and Wonderware InTouch Machine Edition through 7.1 SP3 Patch 4 use cleartext for project-window password storage, which allows local users to obtain sensitive information by reading a file.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What’s the future of the venerable firewall? We’ve invited two security industry leaders to make their case: Join us and bring your questions and opinions!