Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grid Security Keynote of Note at May 2013 ISO Conference

Since you can't be everywhere, there's the SGSB (which can).  Former Seattle City Light CISO and current Verizon control systems security ace Ernie Hayden gave a keynote presentation at the recent ISO New England and New York ISO Energy Conference held in Boston, and we've got it for you.

If you don't know ISO, it stands for Independent System Operator, a term which is often used interchangeably with another acronym: RTO, or Regional Transmission Organization. In North America, these organizations are like referees and traffic cops, trying to keep the peace among utilities and ensure the smooth and reliable flow of appropriately priced electricity across multi-state regions.

It's good to see Security get such a prominent platform at a high profile industry event like this. Certainly a sign of the times.  Ernie's slides will take you through the past, 2013/present and future of grid security, and though some of the info would clearly benefit from his accompanying narration, a lot of this works quite well as is. And if you really want the audio, then I'm sure Ernie will agree to come to you and do it again, as long as you treat him right.  URLs below.


Ernie Hayden deck


Conference home page


Friday, May 24, 2013

Looking Again at the Markey-Waxman Grid Vulnerability Publication

Where would I be without feedback? Many thanks to SGSB readers who chimed in on this.

I recently published a post titled "House of Reps Report Reams Utilities on Cybersecurity." Not accurate and all you have to do is read the cover page which, just below the House seal, says "A Report written by the staff of congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Henry A. Waxman (D-CA)". Mea Gulpa.

So on second look I looked a little closer and found some things to like and some things I had to wonder about. For example, I'm happy to see congressmen seeking more information about the current state of security in our sector. Who could argue with that?

But their methods are not fully sound.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

House of Reps Report Reams Utilities on Cybersecurity

Was trying to capture spirit of Jesse Berst's headline on the same subject:
Utilities to FERC: Take your security measures and shove it
That's not very nice, is it?  I think they toned it down with a later change, but this headline was what was in my inbox in this morning's SmartGridNews.com newsletter. The subject is a recent report published by the House of Representatives that's highly critical of electric utilities behavior to date re: grid cybersecurity.

Moving on! The Wall Street Journal's Rachel King did a fine write-up of recent testimony from the CEO of the American Gas Association (AGA), Dave McCurdy. King began by noting that:
The oil and gas sector faces many of the same cyber security challenges as the electric industry. Yet, there’s one major difference between the industries, both of which need to secure software-based industrial control systems from intruders. There are no regulations governing cyber security among the oil and gas companies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cyber Achilles Heal Afflicts Electric Sector (and other) Senior Leaders

Just for fun, let's begin with a few quotes from an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal of the mind-blower variety:
Executives are disconnected from reality when it comes to IT and security.
Top leaders seem particularly inclined to do things their IT departments warn against, such as opening email from unfamiliar senders, or clicking on links.
During ... simulated attacks, top executives are 25% more likely to click on the links that in a real attack could install malware. One reason ... is that most senior leaders skip company programs on developing cautious email habits.
You can visit this WSJ page below for the full article and attribution.

But wow. What a cyber Achilles Heal we've got if the folks with access to the most important, most sensitive info in our companies are the easiest to scam into coughing it up.

Training Alert: ICS / 2 Control Systems Security Sessions Coming Up

SGSB readers: first a brief housekeeping note. Due to a dose of awareness I just received yesterday, I'll no longer be including live links in posts. When I want to recommend a web page for you to visit I'll give you the full URL, which you can paste into the browser of your choice (see below).

OK moving on. SANS is developing an ICS & utility focused security practice with NIPSCO's Tim Conway assisting.  And this effort is already bearing fruit, with training classes coming up next month.  Here are the deets for you:

  • When: June 11, 2013 (Saturday)
  • Where: Westin Houston Memorial City, Houston, TX USA
  • What: two courses:

1) SCADA Security Training 
2) Pen testing ICS and Smart Grid
For more info and to register, do what you need to do with the following URL: 

Special SGSB Offer: use the code SmartGrid2013 when you register and you'll receive $150 off the Pentesting ICS or the Smart Grid or the SCADA Security Training course.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sanity Check: Nuclear Cyber Security Should be the Best, Right?

A few recent missile launchings notwithstanding, you may recall a little over a month ago things were hot and heavy in the North vs. South Korea showdown. On April 15th Japan Times published this account: South Korea Bolsters Security of Nuclear Plant Network, which opened thusly:
SEOUL – The state-run operator of South Korea’s nuclear power plants has separated its internal computer network from the Internet in an effort to guard against possible North Korean cyber attacks, Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday.
and continued:
It said Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. has also completely divided its nuclear plant control systems from its internal computer networks and restricted both systems’ access to the Internet, while USB ports of the plant control systems have also been sealed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Energy Security Conference Alert: IAGS' Target Energy 2013

UPDATE: Conference Cancelled ... Sorry about that.


What is IAGS you say? I'll answer briskly: the Institute for the Analysis of of Global Security. Teaming with NATO's Energy Security Center of Excellence, IAGS is hosting a conference called Target Energy that includes but goes well beyond cybersecurity and the grid.

For those SGSB readers whose professional lives are circumscribed by electric sector security, this is a chance to stretch a bit. Here's how the organizers describe the focus:
The cost of securing energy supplies is increasing due to threats from terrorists, hackers, activists and hostile nations. What is the impact of attacks against energy, and how can companies, organizations, and governments work with NATO to increase security?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Energy Sector Orgs: How Would You Know if You Were Secure Enough?

Along with my friend and IBM colleague Jeff Katz, I was recently cited in an article by a new publication called Breaking Energy. One of the things they captured was this statement:
[Legislators and regulators] hear statements that the grid is not secure enough .... That begs the question: how would you know? how do you know how secure it is now?”
If one was hellbent on better securing the grid, how would define your destination and how you know you were making progress towards it? Sorry so many questions.  Maybe you can provide some in the comment space below.

Meanwhile, in this USA Today piece, senior leaders in Washington continue to make alarming sounds about our industry's preparedness:
The power industry [ranges widely in security maturity] from companies that are very good to companies that need a lot of work and a lot of help," Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of Cyber Command, said Friday.
Meanwhile, in the NYTimes, two senior [DHS] officials just said "[a new wave of intrusions] were aimed largely at the administrative systems of about 10 major American energy firms, which they would not name."

Seems we have the motivation. And maybe the means. But I still question whether we have a roadmap, tools, or even language recognize progress. More on this coming up.