As the United States and other countries prepare for the transition to a smarter electrical grid, the industry focus has been on getting smart grids themselves up and running, often with little consideration for cyber security issues.
NitroSecurity, Inc., a provider of high-performance security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, today announced new product capabilities designed to address the unique security requirements associated with Smart Grid deployments.
The company’s flagship product, NitroView, which already provides real-time visibility across business and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) networks within energy utilities, has added support for specific devices, protocols and applications associated with the Smart Grid. NitroView now brings expanded capabilities to collect and analyze the increased volume of Smart Grid data as a result of Smart Meters and other connected systems bringing an exponential increase in endpoints that require monitoring.
“The Smart Grid represents a real security challenge and very much mirrors the evolution of the World Wide Web,” said Bob Lockhart, Senior Analyst at Pike Research. “It is a highly intelligent and flexible infrastructure model that allows unprecedented communication between, and control of, a variety of systems. However, it is also a network that could potentially expose critical systems without sufficient security controls in place. Obtaining situational awareness can be a key enabler, and that means monitoring the real-time measurement and distribution infrastructure, the advanced metering infrastructure, and even the meters themselves.”
NitroView brings performance and scale to monitor all three layers of energy networks – business, SCADA and Smart Grid. Specifically, NitroView V8.5 includes:
• Support for the unique identifiers and addresses used in the Smart Grid, such as the Electronic Serial Numbers (ESNs) used in advanced meters.
• Direct log and event collection from leading Smart Grid devices, including meters and metering systems providing centralized log collection and analysis for true situational awareness.
• Support for specialized industrial security devices from Secure Crossing, Byres Security and others to support direct security monitoring within the transmission and distribution infrastructure.
• Direct monitoring support for both industrial and enterprise network protocols within NitroView ADM and NitroGuard IPS to provide security at the demarcation between the Smart Grid and enterprise business networks.
• Expanded NitroView Receiver collection capabilities to support the hundreds of thousands of monitored meters and other devices in a Smart Grid.
According to Alastair MacWillson, global managing director of Accenture’s global security practice, there’s great reason to be optimistic about the benefits of the smart grid. “Consumers would be given more insight into their energy usage, costs to the utility and their customers will drop as the system becomes more efficient and most importantly, we’ll conserve resources as we reduce the amount of wasted energy,” MacWillson says.
Everything from Smart Meters to Smart Grid billing systems are potential intrusion vectors through which attackers could access SCADA controls, financial systems, customer records and even external business networks. Most Smart Grid elements were not built with direct security threats in mind, requiring external security devices to be added or created specifically for this new challenge.
Accenture’s global security head warns that there’s reason to be cautious and concerned about the threat of cyber attacks that such a system could become vulnerable to. “As utilities transform from simple one-way power grids to complex, bidirectional smart grids, they will soon be passing sensitive consumer information about identity and usage patterns over their networks. They must undergo a significant transformation in order to secure such a network from attacks,” MacWillson wrote in a recent SecurityWeek column on securing the smart grid.
“With founders from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, NitroSecurity has extensive experience with critical infrastructures in the energy sector – from oil and natural gas, to nuclear facilities, to electrical generation and distribution,” said Eric Knapp, Director of Critical Infrastructure Markets for NitroSecurity. “Traditionally, the energy infrastructure’s greatest defense was its obscurity and isolation in terms of systems and protocols, and yet we’ve seen those systems come under direct attack as they become more connected. The Smart Grid is neither obscure nor isolated. The industry needs to move quickly to establish security intelligence for the Smart Grid, because the threat is real.”
A report released by Pike Research in April 2011 revealed predictions of smart grid cyber security spending to increase 62% between 2010 and 2011, and by 2015 the annual worldwide market spending in this critical sector will reach $1.3 billion.