Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Disaster Recovery

FERC, NERC Conduct Study on Cyber Incident Response at Electric Utilities

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) last week released a report outlining cyber incident response and recovery best practices for electric utilities.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) last week released a report outlining cyber incident response and recovery best practices for electric utilities.

The report is based on a study conducted by staff at FERC, NERC and NERC regional entities. The study is based on information provided by experts at eight U.S. electric utilities of various sizes and functions, and its goal was to help the industry improve incident response and incident recovery plans, which authors of the study say help ensure the reliability of the bulk electric system in the event of a cybersecurity incident.Incident response for electric utilities

The study found that there is no best incident response and recovery (IRR) plan model. The IRR plans of the targeted utilities share many similarities — they are based on the same NIST framework (SP 800-61) — but there are also differences, and some organizations have developed separate plans for incidents impacting their operational and business networks.

However, staff at NERC and FERC have identified some practices that all electric utilities should consider when developing an IRR plan.

In the preparation phase, they recommend a clear definition of personnel roles and empowering staff to take action without unnecessary delays, recognizing the importance of people while also leveraging technology and tools, ensuring that employees are well trained and are always updating their skills, and incorporating lessons learned from past incidents and tests.

Learn more about cybersecurity in the energy sector at SecurityWeek’s 2020 ICS Cyber Security Conference and SecurityWeek’s Security Summits virtual event series

In the incident detection and analysis phase, the report recommends the use of baselining to detect potential incidents, and using a decision tree or flowchart to quickly assess if a specific risk threshold is reached and if certain circumstances qualify as an event.

In the containment and eradication phase, IRR plans should take into account the impact of the steps taken. The organization should have a thorough understanding of the potential impact of, for example, isolating operational networks in case of an incident. It should also take into consideration the possibility that a piece of malware present in the environment may initiate destructive actions that are automatically triggered by the containment strategy.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Another important factor that needs to be considered in this phase is related to the resource implications of an incident response of indeterminate length.

As for post-incident activities, the report recommends using lessons learned from incidents and simulations to improve IRR plans and address possible shortfalls.

Related: Cisco Firewall Exploited in Attack on U.S. Renewable Energy Firm

Related: Security of North American Energy Grid Tested in GridEx Exercise

Related: U.S. Energy Firm Fined $10 Million for Security Failures

Related: GAO Says Electric Grid Cybersecurity Risks Only Partially Assessed

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a managing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Join security experts as they discuss ZTNA’s untapped potential to both reduce cyber risk and empower the business.


Join Microsoft and Finite State for a webinar that will introduce a new strategy for securing the software supply chain.


Expert Insights

Related Content

Application Security

Cycode, a startup that provides solutions for protecting software source code, emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday with $4.6 million in seed funding.

CISO Strategy

SecurityWeek spoke with more than 300 cybersecurity experts to see what is bubbling beneath the surface, and examine how those evolving threats will present...


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...

CISO Conversations

Joanna Burkey, CISO at HP, and Kevin Cross, CISO at Dell, discuss how the role of a CISO is different for a multinational corporation...

CISO Conversations

In this issue of CISO Conversations we talk to two CISOs about solving the CISO/CIO conflict by combining the roles under one person.

Risk Management

The supply chain threat is directly linked to attack surface management, but the supply chain must be known and understood before it can be...

CISO Strategy

Security professionals understand the need for resilience in their company’s security posture, but often fail to build their own psychological resilience to stress.

Management & Strategy

SecurityWeek examines how a layoff-induced influx of experienced professionals into the job seeker market is affecting or might affect, the skills gap and recruitment...