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What IT Can Teach Utilities About Cybersecurity & Smart Grids
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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
11/26/2013 | 3:31:50 PM
Another security threat to keep us up at night
This is a fascinating article that opens up a whole new set of security concerns. Your example of the denial of service attack last year that knocked out the internal communications system of a German power utility is striking example about how vulnerable industrial control and eneergy systems are. As the Internet of Things expands, it's only going to get worse. Thanks for raising the red flag, Bob. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2013 | 9:22:29 AM
Re: Another security threat to keep us up at night
Marilyn, I agree. This is one of those topics that I am surprised doesn't get more attention. Especially now that energy companies are using remote monitoring to measure customer consumption, their networks have become very dispersed. Bob, do you see utilities making moves to hire more people with IT and security backgrounds to help beef up their security postures?
Chuck Brooks
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Chuck Brooks,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2013 | 10:36:54 AM
Cybersecurity/smartgrids
Thanks Robert for an excellent article. Our utilities and smart grids are indeed vulnerable and are under attacked more than we are aware. Thankfully, DHS, NIST, and the not-for-profit Council on Cybersecurity have identified this issue of critical infrastrucutre protection as an urgent priority.
Bswarthout49
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Bswarthout49,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2013 | 3:37:10 PM
External Threats
I found this to be a very insightful article and there is a lot to take away from it. It seems more and more utilities are moving to offline air gaped enviornments to avoid any interaction with the oustide world. Still, the question remains, how do you validate the integrity of files that would enter such a utility via USB from a contractor/vendor/employee, etc?

I would encourage you to read how OPSWAT Security Applications allow you to design security controls which dictate which and what kinds of media and file types are allowed into critical infrastrucute.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Moderator
12/2/2013 | 7:35:59 PM
A frightening thought!
What a great wake-up call to one of the lesser known, yet potentially more critical, threats due to the age of cloud and internet.  As the Internet of Things and the push to connect infrastructure to the cloud increases, it's frightening to think of the risk of devastation it brings.  In the worst case, when you consider electronic warfare, these systems could have devastating outcomes.  After all, to think that all nuclear missle launch codes were set to 00000 for the longest time, and the weakness of password security, this is truly a recipe for disaster.  Unfortunately, only a forced revamp of security controls for these systems will help reduce the risks from these threats.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
12/3/2013 | 9:19:13 AM
Re: A frightening thought!
Totally agree, Stratusician, that these power grid vulnerabilities are really scary. One of the most frightening revelations in the article was that Windows 95 machines still run many critical systems.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Strategist
12/4/2013 | 2:00:03 PM
Win 95
I'm not shocked to hear utilities using Windows 95 in critical grid machinery. I was discussing Internet of things strategy with a manufacturing CIO, and he said this is one thing that holds them back -- they have Windows versions much older than 95 running machines, and they don't dare put those on a network.
davidjwilson@rogers.com
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[email protected],
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 12:19:51 AM
Re: Win 95
Why is Windows ANYTHING running these systems???
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
12/6/2013 | 1:53:18 PM
Re: IoT & Smart Grids
Kristopher Ardis, executive director of Energy Solutions for Maxim Integrated, offers some additional perspective in a recent article in SmartGrid News, Smart grid, the Internet of Things and Security, an inside look . Focusing on the similarities between smart grids and IoT, Ardis says smart grid deployments offer several reasons why "security must be designed in from the start" of any IoT deployment, among them:
  • A multitude of remote, distributed sensors and control devices are deployed Iin IoT where they will not be supervised. Unlike an ATM with a security camera nearby, there is no oversight on a smart meter. This makes it easy for an attacker to acquire devices for study.
  • There are risks with machine-to-machine communication. When devices are communicating with each other with little human interaction, tampering may be difficult to detect until something catastrophic happens.


Interesting analogy and food for thought! Anyone agree or disagree?

 

 

 

RodneyH403
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RodneyH403,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2013 | 6:39:22 PM
RBAC part of the solution
When it comes to default passwords, the asset owners need to pay more attention to specifying requirements for Role Based Access Control using Standards such as IEEE 1686.

As far as Ruggedcom is concerened I believe that default password cyber security issues were addressed quite some time ago (12 months + ?) which seems to be a responsible approach.  Not sure what benefit there is in raising an old resolved issue against a select vendor - FUD??

Once decent RBAC is implemeneted by the asset owner, it is then about how do they manage that access to the devices with large numbers of users and large numbers of devices so solutions like the Siemens Ruggedcom Crossbow system comes into play controlling and recording all activity.
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