Don’t play cat and mouse with grid security
Many of us remember growing up watching the TV show Tom and Jerry. Tom always plots to capture Jerry resulting in mayhem and destruction, but Tom rarely, if ever, is able to catch Jerry because of Jerry’s cunningness.
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Jerry’s ability to beat Tom is more than just luck. It’s his understanding of the situation, planning, and execution that helps him constantly beat Tom at his own game.
Whenever I think of cybersecurity, the tale of Tom and Jerry fills my mind. Tom can be likened to black hat hackers – the bad guys who are always out there plotting ways to go after the good guys like Jerry.
Being Jerry and as stakeholders, we need to think about all the ways Tom can attack and come up with plans to avoid these risks.
To lay out the foundation for foolproof grid security it takes a team of trusted experts with deep knowledge of power systems engineering, the latest communication technologies, and evolving industry regulations (NERC/CIP).
Any security solution that is devised must be flexible enough to accommodate existing IT/OT infrastructure and at the same time meet mandatory NERC/CIP compliance requirements, such as traffic segregation and prioritization among others.
One of the most prevalent sources of grid attacks is through operating system vulnerabilities in Windows or Linux platform. With the frequency of cyberattacks increasing exponentially, OS vendors such as Microsoft or Redhat are forced to release frequent updates. However, it might not practical for IT and OT departments to implement these patches across thousands of computers repeatedly as many times it requires computer reboots and disruptions.
The solution to this lies in implementing proactive measures using the latest security technologies such as firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) which have built-in rules to close gaps caused by the most common vulnerabilities.
Another key challenge Utilities face is legacy SCADA protocols such as DNP3, Modbus, etc. which have no built-in security mechanisms like authentication and encryption. If not properly secured, this is an open invitation for a cyber-attack. All communication thus must be properly secured via end-to-end encryption and authentication.
At Cisco we bring together complex skills in IT, OT, communication, and power systems to create the comprehensive end-to-end security solutions for Utility companies.
Learn more about our approach to grid security by visiting our website: