Thursday, March 17, 2011

Combating Smart Grid Vulnerabilities ... and Ourselves

In the previous post I attempted to communicate the urgent necessity of setting some performance metrics for ourselves, with the objective of demonstrating to the senior decision makers who sponsor our activities that what we are doing is bearing fruit.

That the sum total of all the money spent on Smart Grid cyber security products and services, plus the monetary and human resources dedicated to the task of formulating solid interoperability and security standards is producing demonstrably more secure utilities and a demonstrably more secure and increasingly smart grid.

Well, the Journal of Energy Security just published an article called "Combating Smart Grid Vulnerabilities" in which my senior colleague, Grid Wise Alliance Chairman emeritus and current Chair of the Global Smart Grid Federation, Guido Bartels makes a case that we seem to be making reasonable progress ... that we're successfully grappling with what we think we know about the security weaknesses in this system under construction. And I can only agree with him.

But he also acknowledges that it's really hard to say for sure. And backs that with the recently published findings of the GAO and the DOE's IG office. A section of the article called "Don't get too comfortable" states:
The [IG report] issued its report on this matter ... in which it found FERC cyber security standards (as implemented by NERC) and the overall approach for regulating the national grid quite lacking, saying: "… even if the standards had been implemented properly, they 'were not adequate to ensure that systems-related risks to the nation’s power grid were mitigated or addressed in a timely manner."
My response to this is: how would the DOE IG, or anyone else for that matter, especially those who aren't working energy and cyber security 24/7 know if and when implemented standards and controls were adequate? We haven't defined adequate and we measure almost nothing because we've told ourselves two things:
  1. It's too hard to measure cyber security, especially in the energy sector, and,
  2. We can't talk about anything that might be helpful because the info is too sensitive
I agree with Bartels that we are making progress. But how we convince others of that is another matter. There are plenty of MBA's out there and enough Deming disciples to know that we're fooling ourselves if we think that progress is self evident ... that it's obvious to all observers that activity equals efficacy.

Let's admit the emperor is stark naked, get him some decent garb, and build an increasingly secure Smart Grid, the security level of which can be communicated to ordinary folks ... including non-technical senior executives and congressmen.

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