Sunday, November 1, 2009

Notes from 2009 Control Systems Cyber Security Conference

We first posted on Joe Weiss's work back in July following a presentation he gave to the Air Force. Now here's a great review of a significant annual conference, one that focuses not on IT or internet security in a Smart Grid context, but rather on the security issues related to the millions of control systems that automate the Grid. This is Joe's summary:
The Ninth Control Systems Cyber Security Conference was hosted by Applied Control Solutions (ACS) the week of October 19 in Bethesda, MD. The festivities started Monday morning with parallel activities. A tour was arranged of Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s Rock Creek water treatment facility. In parallel, the initial meeting of the ISA Nuclear Plant Cyber Security Joint Working Group was held.
The ACS Conference started Monday afternoon with two introductory sessions: Control Systems for the non-Control System Engineer and IT for the Control Systems Engineer.The Conference began in earnest Tuesday with approximately 110 attendees from US and international electric and water utilities, chemical and oil/gas companies, IT and control system suppliers and consultants, universities, and US and international government agencies. The Conference is called Control Systems Cyber Security is that industrial control systems are common across multiple industries. The agenda can be found at
There were two hacking demonstrations of control systems and several discussions on control system cyber vulnerabilities. There was also a discussion on the need for technical control system cyber security curriculum (policy programs exist). There were two keynotes: the Honorable Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology and member of the Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee provided the lunch keynote. Whitfield Diffie gave the evening keynote and discussed control system cyber security issues from the Tuesday’s session.
There were four different sessions on actual control system cyber incidents – none of which was public! In one session, two control system engineers from two different utilities that have control systems from every major supplier discussed their recent control system cyber incidents – one had his plant shutdown. A couple interesting side notes were that existing control system logging are adequate to identify control system incidents and their control system suppliers weren’t of much help when it came to providing control system cyber security support. Both engineers felt it was so important to share information they attended the Conference on their own nickel. This is in marked contrast to the utility and industry leadership who didn’t think this conference was important enough to attend even though many were based in Washington. Wednesday evening, the Honorable James Langevin gave the evening keynote. Congressman Langevin felt this was so important he spent 30-45 minutes after his presentation answering questions and talking to the attendees.
We received a summary of government activities including legislative efforts on cyber security, cyber security activities by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, efforts on-going at the Bonneville Power Administration using the NIST Framework, and non-governmental activities in certification and cyber incident collection. Also got a very interesting presentation on cyber security legal issues and a discussion of the Russian cyber attack on Estonia.
On the last day, NIST held training sessions on two very relevant NIST standards:
-- SP 800-53 - Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems - including those for the Bulk Power System
-- SP 800-82 - Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security provides guidance on securing Industrial Control Systems (ICS), including Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, Distributed Control Systems (DCS), and other control system configurations

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