Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The 1st Smart Grid Cyber Security Summit is Toast - Selected Notes from Day 2

As good as the utility panel was at the end of Day 1 (see final bullet here), Day 2's vendor panel comprised mainly of meter guys was another clear standout. On the stage were:
  • Robert Former, Itron, Principal Security Engineer
  • Edward Beroset, Elster, Director of Technology and Standards
  • Stan Chan, Verisign/Symantec, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Here are some of what this panel conveyed, sans attribution:
  • We've gotten much more serious about security in the past year and we're making changes at a rapid pace
  • All products go through rigorous security tests by reputable third parties pre-release, and security testing is continuous throughout the lifecycle
  • Plans to share vulnerabilities ID'd in these 3rd party tests with PUCs and other regulators and stakeholders
  • Additional attention to security driven by huge push for more security from customers: utilities
  • A question was raised on whether Smart Meters could trust smart toasters. There was no answer to this question as it was rhetorical I believe. Certainly thought provoking
  • Meters must withstand extreme weather conditions and consume no more than 5 watts. Think about it - a one watt difference per meter x 1 million meters = a megawatt
Later, a question from the back row to the microgrid panel caused a stir. What was that question? Something like: "Are utilities aware of the possible disruptive nature of microgrids to their well established business models?"

Murmuring and agitation ensued ... along with very many words flowing high rates of speed. To sum it up, I believe the response was along the lines of "hell yes and they're using lawyers and all other means at their disposal to slow microgrid deployments down." Personally, I don't believe that response captures what I see as a range of microgrid thinking by utilities. Some of them, I'm sure we'll see, want to get out in front of this movement and will make it another part of their offerings.

In marked contrast, the final panel, which included Elinor Mills of CNET, was a thoughtful and somber meditation on the near-perfect relationship between the media and Smart Grid utilities and vendors. NOT!!! It was fairly raucous and included a course mixture of literal and figurative finger pointing. In the end, neither side was completely innocent of wrong doing and neither side was completely guilty. Both sides agreed to keep talking with hopes that better understanding and communications would follow in the fullness of time.

As for the conference itself, I spoke with a couple dozen folks before we disbanded and all were well pleased with what they'd experienced and all pledged to attend the next Smart Grid Cyber Security Summit event. I have it on good faith that videos and other useful artifacts from the conference will soon appear on the summit site. When they do, I'll be sure to send out a heads-up here on the SGSB.

That's a wrap for now. I've got a red eye back to Beantown to catch. Go Sox!

Photo credit: The Social Blog Network on Flickr.com

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