NERC to utilities: Look harder at critical assets to reduce cyber security risk

NERC criticizes electric utilities for downplaying critical nature of assets and cyber threats, putting national grid at risk. Link to exclusive cyber security video and blog that aim to reduce cyber security threats to automation systems.

04/13/2009


North American Electric Reliability Corp. has a

North American Electric Reliability Corp. has a "NERC News" newsletter (PDF), looking at electrical reliability issues.

Electric utilities need to think harder about cyber security. In a , Michael Assante, chief security officer for NERC (National Electric Reliability Corporation), is delivering a diplomatic but pointed message: By trying to avoid regulation, utilities are putting the electrical system at risk. In this case, cyber security risks may have increased because of the way some electric utilities are approaching regulatory compliance.

Improve cyber security: Exclusive video, blog

See below, links to exclusive video interview with Michael Assante recorded in February; Control Engineering Cyber Security blog .

New regulations intended to protect the bulk electric grid are aimed at assets that have been classified as "critical." The specific definition identifies assets that “if destroyed, degraded, or otherwise rendered unavailable, would affect the reliability or operability of the Bulk Electric System.” In an apparent

NERC’s view is that the utilities are not really considering how interconnected all the parts of the system are and are therefore drastically undercounting those that should fall appropriately under the regulation. Assante’s suggestion is that utilities

As the letter states, “NERC is requesting that entities take a fresh, comprehensive look at their risk-based methodology and their resulting list of CAs [critical assets] with a broader perspective on the potential consequences to the entire interconnected system of not only the loss of assets that they own or control, but also the potential misuse of those assets by intelligent threat actors. Although it is the responsibility of the Registered Entities to identify and safeguard applicable CAs, NERC and the Regional Entities will jointly review the significant number of…entities that reported having no CAs to determine the root cause(s) and suggest appropriate corrective actions, if necessary.”

Watch an exclusive video interview with Michael Assante recorded in February.

Read the Control Engineering Cyber Security blog .

– Edited by Peter Welander , process industries editor,
Control Engineering News Desk
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