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Securing Communications Between the Distribution Line and the Control Center


January 20, 2018 - 0 Comments

As DistribuTECH kicks off, this is a great time to look more closely at how communications between distribution-line reclosers and a utility’s control center can work. Cisco and Eaton have developed a solution for this area of operations that speaks to utilities’ desire to—among other things—authenticate communications between devices and their control centers.

Today, cyber threats are increasing both in frequency and complexity. While utilities are under increasing pressure to eliminate vulnerabilities in their distribution systems, many lack the budget to completely replace current field devices. And their existing communications networks may not be designed to encrypt application traffic. If a utility’s network can’t distinguish between security and application data, it can’t prioritize the applications used in operations and customer service.

What to Do? 

Retrofitting recloser controls is the smart play. Why? It can be done relatively quickly. It helps reduce OpEx and offers relatively robust protection against malicious acts. Cisco and its partner Eaton have come up with a solution that does all that, saving time and money and securing communications between distribution-line reclosers and control centers.

The Cisco and Eaton Connected Grid Solution for Secure Field Communications brings the Eaton Form 6 Secure Communications Module and Cisco 809 Industrial Integrated Services Router (Cisco IR809) together in the same tamper-proof control cabinet. If they choose to, utilities can also add Cisco IoT Field Network Director (Cisco IoT FND) software to manage Cisco IR809s and other field devices.

Our mantra is secure, modernize, and simplify:

  • Secure: Defend against cyber attacks by encrypting SCADA and remote engineering communications between reclosers and the control center. Authenticate any device that attempts to communicate with reclosers.
  • Modernize: Save 75 percent over replacing existing recloser controls and avoid the expense of integrating reclosers and routers. This solution is integrated and fully tested by two industry leaders who have a deep understanding of utility applications.
  • Simplify: Quickly retrofit and commission existing controls in the field, which can be done by self-install, Eaton service techs, or by techs you hire. Going forward, reduce those expensive truck rolls by allowing technicians to work remotely through a secure VPN tunnel.

 A Better Solution

Unlike “bump-in-the-wire” approaches that position routers outside control cabinets, the Cisco and Eaton solution significantly decreases the possibility of tampering, with the expense and inconvenience that involves. For utilities of any size, reducing the cost of a robust solution, putting it in place rapidly, and protecting customers from the consequences of disrupted operations is significant.



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