Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Best Talk Ever on NERC CIPs and Grid Security ... Period

I've read some good stuff over the years, though never at work. In the classics department my favorites are The Heart of Darkness, Moby Dick and The Invisible Man. For somewhat shorter, if not lighter fare, I like Haruki Murakami and the Raymonds: Chandler and Carver.

But the line between pleasure reading and work reading has been big, bright and until recently, very, very bold. That is, until I found Stephen Flanagan's mature (by his own reckoning) perspective on the Critical Infrastructure Protection standards (CIPs), the culture of utilities, and the difference between compliance and commitment:
I have a problem with this term “compliance.”  In fact I think it’s bad terminology for the CIP program and gets us into the entire wrong mindset from the get-go. And why do I think this? Well although the term “compliance” has a more or less precise legal definition, its use among the uninitiated does not have the same connotations.  I fear that when many hear the term they look more to Webster than Black as the dictionary of choice.  And in Webster one is likely to find the word defined as: Compliance: –noun, 1. the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding. 2. a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way.
He asks "How does that grab you?" and continues:
... in my opinion, for reliability, and I stick CIP into the reliability program as a whole in this discussion, I think the better term would be “commitment” rather than “compliance.” Why “commitment” you may ask. Well again Mr. Webster provides some helpful insights: Commitment: –noun, 1. the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself. 2. a pledge or promise; obligation. 3. engagement; involvement. 
Flanagan concludes with "Now doesn’t that sound a whole lot better?" Yes, it sure does.

I've never heard the compliance vs. security conundrum more eloquently and simply put. Compliance mentality is an organizational, cultural disease that undermines real proactive security attitude and action. I'll take engagement and involvement every time.

There's a whole lot more to savor and appreciate in this learned, witty, irreverent article. You may find the occasional typo, and maybe the title's a bit alarmist, but that's likely because this isn't actually a work of great literature. However, in my experience, and in our space, Stephen Flanagan's keynote address is one for the ages ... a grid and Smart Grid security masterpiece.

You can read the whole thing HERE.