Monday, November 17, 2014

Energy Security Postscript and Next Chapter

Long-time readers of the SGSB might have wondered if they'd ever see another post. Me too. After producing an average of 1+ posts per week since its inception 5 years ago, I cut way back after leaving IBM in 2013 to give myself more time to focus on consulting. And now there's a new development to report.

4 month ago I shuttered my security strategy business and began my first day on the job at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). It's one of the Department of Energy's national labs, and it's the one most squarely positioned at the intersection of energy infrastructure and national security. Let's call that energy security.

My INL title: Senior Cyber & Energy Security Strategist - may sound a little pretentious, but it pretty accurately captures what I was hired to do. If you visit the lab's home page or the INL Twitter feed it seems like nuclear energy research and related nuclear work are its dominant activities. But while nuclear energy research and fuels fabrication were its origin in the 1940's and its historic mission, with the help of its massive and remote test range that includes grid-scale transmission, distribution and communications assets, the lab I just joined does a ton of research and applied work on power and industrial control systems, Smart Grid and wireless communications, cyber and physical security and resilience, renewables, microgrids, energy storage and more.

Nuclear energy R&D, and full nuclear fuel lifecycle work (including non proliferation) will always be a significant part of that nation's requirements, and the INL mission, but nuclear energy is arguably the most reliable portion of our non fossil fuel baseload, but INL is quietly becoming something much more - and more important - than its nuclear legacy might suggest.

Without going into too much detail, the lab's customers now include not just DOE's nuclear energy organizations, but also DOE's renewables, resilience and cyber-physical security components too. DHS has become a major customer, as the lab hosts the ICS-CERT cyber security overwatch function for the US grid and other critical infrastructures, and performs other leading edge cyber and physical security roles as well. DoD is a very large customer too, for energy, security and communications test functions, rounded out by direct work with utilities and energy and telecom technology suppliers.

In short, INL in 2014 is not the lab many people think it is. While it's yet to update its image online, a visit to Idaho Falls quickly confirms that this is one of the nation's preeminent Energy Security lab resources. Nuclear energy is and likely always will be a key element, but without making much noise about it, INL has become so much more, and I'm very very lucky to be a part of it.


Postscript to the Postscript post: Though my blogs are in suspended animation, I continue to speak in public, and albeit more frequently and tersely, on Twitter @andybochman. As the Twitter profile reveals, I continue to work out of my home office in Boston while hitting the road most often for DC, and of course, now, Idaho.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Get Schooled on ICS Sec by SANS at SERC in Charlotte

Here's the facts, just the facts:

Legendary cyber training institute SANS has joined forces with industry leaders to equip security professionals and control system engineers with the cybersecurity skills they need to defend national critical infrastructure.

Course name: ICS410 -- ICS/SCADA Security Essentials 

Course description: ICS410 provides a set of standardized skills and knowledge for industrial cybersecurity professionals. The course is designed to ensure that the workforce involved in supporting and defending industrial control systems is trained to keep the operational environment safe, secure, and resilient against current and emerging cyber threats.

The discount: Receive a massive 5% off with discount code: SANSICS_SGSB5

Venue and date: SERC Reliability Corporation, July 14 – 18 in Charlotte, NC

Friday, June 20, 2014

Calls for Enhanced Enterprise Security Governance Starting to Steamroll

Though I've been approaching this issue from a sector-specific perspective for years, lots of what's been in the news lately (and I mean lately) is intended for all technology-enabled sectors. Which pretty much means every business and every organization that intends to maintain consistent and reliable operations in the near and mid-term future.

First off, and with origins that predated the Target breach that's credited with generating most of this activity, was DOE's Energy Advisory Committee giving thumbs up in May to a paper on this topic on Security Governance. It proposes that DOE pursue potential upgrades to how energy companies organize and run themselves from a security perspective. Titled: EAC Recommendations for DOE Action Regarding Implementing Effective Enterprise Security Governance - Outline for Energy Sector Executives and Boards, among other things, this paper lists the following "Characteristics of Effective Security Governance":
  • Clearly defined responsibilities from the board of directors to senior leadership to employees 
  • Presence of an active Security Governance board comprised of senior stakeholders from across 
  • the company 
  • An executive owner of enterprise security: with purview over IT, OT and physical security policy designated CSO or similar 
  • Striving for 100% alignment with of security with business/mission 
  • Using measurement of key indicators to increase awareness and drive improvement (with 
  • maturity tools like DOE's ES-C2M2

Friday, April 18, 2014

New England (and Connecticut in Particular) Showing PUC Leadership on Security

NARUC has been issuing cybersecurity guidance to the 50 US public utility commissions (PUCs) since 2010. And NASEO's been guiding other state government orgs.  California's PUC has been very active, showing leadership with its multiple publications on security and privacy. Until recently, PUC Texas had a true cybersecurity pro on staff.

But now I'm going to tell you about my part of the world: New England.  Last fall the organization that brings the six northeastern PUCs together, NECPUC, put out an RFP for security consulting for the six and some of their utilities. Won by EnergySec, I've heard only positive news about what that six month engagement has produced. In addition, the Massachusetts AG recently released an RFP seeking 3rd part evaluations of cybersecurity preparedness of the distribution companies serving the state.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Security Governance Ripples from Target Breach

You know the saying, if you want a different result, best not to keep doing the same thing. In this case, the result was the massive data loss breach involving loss of the records of 40 million customers at mega retailer Target.

In its wake, CEO Gregg Steinhafel stated that he is "elevating the role" of its chief information security officer and hiring outside the company to fill the position.  According to this NY Times article from early March, bringing on a new CISO will help Target centralize the company's security responsibilities.

And while the timing is coincidental, I owe Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories' Sharla Artz thanks for pointing out that Wisconsin based electric utility Alliant Energy Corp just made a similar move. For me, there are several promising parts to Alliant's announcement at the recent EnergyBiz conference that it had just:
Created an executive-level opening ... for overseeing cyber and physical security. The position was designed to bring cyber issues out of the weeds of the IT shop, where CEOs generally don't tread.
What I like best about this is:
  • The company didn't have to endure a huge security incident to justify this change to the org chart
  • The position is clearly not going to be buried in an IT silo, so it should have authority to set security policy across IT and OT
  • Reflecting a convergence that's happening in many energy enterprises, this new security exec will oversee both cyber and physical security
Hopefully we'll see more utilities make similar moves ... and soon.

Image credit: Michael Durham at

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Eerie and Early Visualization of the Internet of Things (IoT)

I've got a short story to recommend to you. It's cerebral without being overly literary. It's got action, though no cyber-physical grid attacks. There's no shooting. No lives lost. No outages. But is there ever a lot going on! In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a parody of sorts of what may be coming our way in the not-very-distant future.

Titled "Water,' it was published last year by author and futurist, Ramez Naam.

Here's what the ad-free, neural-implanted main character experiences walking down a street in NYC:
Civic systems chattered away. The sidewalk slabs beneath his feet fed a steady stream of counts of passers-by, estimates of weight and height and gender, plots of probabilistic walking paths, data collected for the city planners. Embedded biosensors monitored the trees lining the street, the hydration of their soils, the condition of their limbs. Health monitors watched for runny noses, sneezing, coughing, any signs of an outbreak of disease. New York City’s nervous system kept constant vigil, keeping the city healthy, looking for ways to improve it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Social Summary of SANS ICS Security Summit 2014

Since I went solo there's been less time for blogging but I hope to catch up a little with this mega post on the just-concluded, 9th annual SANS ICS Security Summit which took place in the Contemporary Hotel at Disney.

Where I can I'll include Twitter IDs, as for many of us, Twitter is how we stay abreast of what we find interesting and what we're thinking about in between real world meet-ups. (Note: I only include these when they're unique to the individual and not shared by a company or org.)

I won't cover all the talks because I didn't attend all of them, and I apologize to those presenters I don't cover here. Nor was I at "Game Night" (though I wish I was) which from what I heard later was a fantastic and grueling hack-fest that extended into the wee hours before champions finally emerged.