Critical infrastructure operators need to take an integrated approach to improve monitoring, management and protection of smart grids.
A lack of
standards and increasingly aggressive attackers will pose some challenges to
electric utilities trying to monitor and secure smart grids, according to a
infrastructure operators are monitoring and managing automated systems and
grids that are becoming more complex, according to a report released Jan. 4 from
Pike Research. IT teams looking for more efficient ways to monitor, manage and
protect their infrastructure are relying on new technology and tools to
integrate security, compliance and change-management processes, the report
had built out their smart grids and supporting infrastructure over the years
without a coherent master plan, according to Pike analysts. Smart grids in the
report were defined as infrastructure, such as smart meters and specialized
systems operated and managed by electric utilities in order to be more
efficient. These environments tend to contain heterogeneous systems that often
can't communicate with each other and are difficult to manage. The exponential
growth of intelligent devices on the network further adds to the challenge,
according to the report.
it is rare that the entire automation system was developed based on a single
architecture or framework that identifies the applicable policies to protect,
monitor and manage the system," the analysts wrote.
Along with the
management challenges as a result of not knowing what components have been
deployed and monitoring incompatible systems, the systems are vulnerable to
cyber-attackers who systematically probe the control network to find a weak
spot, analysts said. While Stuxnet and Night Dragon had specific targets, most
cyber-attacks against control systems have been sweeping in nature, looking for
or exploiting a fault that may exist in many installations, according to the
control systems professionals are beginning to realize that there are overlaps
in the processes, data and technology being used by the security, compliance
and operations teams, which can be combined to simplify the environment and
improve efficiency, according to Bob Lockhart, a senior analyst at Pike
Research and principal author of the report.
are new tools that allow administrators to gain real-time visibility into their
industrial control systems, that is not enough security. This is because those
same products introduce new "operating systems, applications and hardware
that have vulnerabilities" into the environment, and can be attacked in
ways the original systems could not, the report found. Administrators need to
manage and secure these control systems the same way other IT systems are
managed on the enterprise network.
security requires an understanding of the data being transported through the
infrastructure," according to the report.
not the same thing as compliance, although compliance functions are often a
subset of security functions with reporting capabilities, analysts said.
the utility's geographic location and industry, there may be regulatory
requirements to comply with, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Payment Card Industry data
security standards and North American Electric Reliability Corporation's
Critical Infrastructure Protection. Nearly all the regulations compel companies
to collect a large amount of data from each of the automation systems, which,
for example, requires utilities to invest in event-collection systems,
according to the report.