Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do Utilities need a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

Of course, it's presumptuous for me to presume to know what work be best for any given utility. I can only work from generalizations of the industry as a whole, so please don't take this the wrong way.  

But yes, I most certainly think they do. And a CSO as well. I support anything that can make security a more tangible, centralized, measurable and manageable enterprise function. But of course you already know that.

However, it's not just me. Read THIS, from Dark Reading. Before that, though, a couple of snippets you may find useful.

After you decide to create a SOC ...
A good next step is to create the position of chief security officer or chief information security officer to place responsibility in a single executive-level employee, says Doug Graham, a senior director of information risk management for EMC. Putting the responsibility for security in a single position can help focus an organization's security efforts.
And according to Nicolas Fischbach of London-based Colt Telecom Services ...
As the security initiative develops, a company will typically seek out better visibility into what is going on in its network. Many companies do not have a full inventory of their information assets, and embarking on a program to create a security operations center can be enlightening.
Fischbach also offers this zinger, which may be counter intuitive to some folks:
The first reason to have a SOC is not to do security enforcement, but to get visibility into your environment.
After all, you want to know your weaknesses before others find them ... which can lead to unhappy things like THIS.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Full Disclosure from 2012 Distributech's Keynote Security Panel

It's fun to connect with and catch-up with energy sector security friends, and not always at security conferences. I think we all get a kick out of seeing each other and then dispersing back out into the world to promote the cause and fight our battles in all the different ways we do it.

In fact, it feels a little more special when gather inside a larger conference context, which without a doubt is what you get at the mighty annual Distributech, which took place this year in sunny San Antonio, Texas.

So, enough chit chat. Let's dive into what was discussed on Thursday morning by these folks. Moderator Mike Ahmadi of GraniteKey expertly led a panel of experts on the topic of Security Standards, including:
  • Bobby Brown, Enernex 
  • Alan Rivaldo, Texas PUC 
  • Nate Kube, Wurldtech 
  • Darren Highfill, Man of Many Hats 
The guys covered several different topics in depth, including security metrics, vulnerability handling in IT vs. OT, social engineering, and perhaps, most provocatively, security information disclosure ethics and ramifications. Below find a few highlights for each one:

Metrics and Measurement
  • In the shadow of Basecamp (which we'll get to shortly), trying to gauge industry progress on security or lack thereof, Mike asked: "are products getting better?" and the response surprised some of us I think. Nate, who has been testing grid products and systems since he was knee high said "absolutely!"
  • Others chimed in that, slowly but surely, increased awareness has raised the bar for what's expected from vendors. Sometimes it's because utilities' RFPs' demand it, other times it comes from the vendors themselves. Altogether it's certainly too slowly for many of us, but the consensus seemed to be: tangible improvement is happening out there
  • Darren introduced the new DOE RMMM (in early development), referenced other maturity models and frameworks, and he and the panel seemed to contend that all of these, to a greater or lesser extent, help organizations baseline and roadmap their security functions and goals ... and who wouldn't want that!
  • Bobby Brown got some laughs (from me, anyway) when he likened the concept of security maturity standards for SG products to the carnival sign we all know that says "You must be this tall to ride this ride"
  • Nate praised an audience member's phrase: "at the speed of Metasploit". This set the stage for the later discussion on disclosure. (There's more on the Metasploit vulnerability and exploit development framework HERE if this is your first time hearing the term.)
  • Much to my delight, much was said about metrics and measurement in the early going, as we moved back and forth between contrasting the development and evolution of standards and guidelines (e.g., NERC CIPs, NISTIR 7628, IEC 62443 2-4, etc.) with demonstrable improvement in the security posture of utilities
Vulnerabilities in IT vs. OT

This may be obvious to many folks, and I've heard it mentioned quite a bit myself especially concerning meters. But the point was made that in the IT universe, one of the primary modes for dealing with newly surfaced vulnerabilities as well as new types of threats, was rapid change. Rapid change of hardware (we all want the latest gadgets, laptops and servers) is facilitated and driven by customer expectations a refresh on these items every few years or so.

And we see even more rapid change in IT software, as patches to some systems are generated once a month, once a week or pretty much any time. We not only tolerate this pattern, we've come to expect it as a natural part of using the latest and greatest (and safest) software.

That of course brought us back to the OT part of our world, and its intrinsically different set of economics, values and certainly, hardware and software lifecycles. For many good reasons, the systems that support our operations centers, generators, transmission and distribution functions, to include both the hardware and the software, have simply not been built to accommodate frequent change. 

And the culture which wraps around these systems, both the users and the suppliers, is still largely hard-wired to make decisions based on comparatively very lengthy spans of time elapsing between changes.

According to Darren, factors that play into the longer OT hardware and software version lifecycles include:
  • How a system is built
  • How systems around that system are built
  • How we use these systems
And a question arose: are systems that are being designed today looking like they're more able to facilitate faster change cycles? Don't think we arrived at an answer on that ... and that means the answer might be "no"

Social Engineering

The panel got a question from an attendee on social engineering, that is, using plain old people skills (e.g., charm, friendliness, charisma, urgency, faux credentials, etc.) to gain physical access to secure areas, access control information, system configuration information, and just about anything else.

All agreed that typical utility workers' (stereotype to follow) inherent goodness and sense of trust and helpfulness made the energy sector more susceptible to this type of threat than say financial services on Wall Street, where (only slight exaggeration to follow) everyone is mean, greedy and suspicious of everyone else

One of the panelists from a testing org said social engineering is 100% whenever they use it (ouch). Though the same person that social engineering assessments often one of the first services lined out by a utility when negotiating a contract for a comprehensive assessment.

Allan Rivaldo, the Texas PUC representative, after he made it perfectly clear that his statements made on the panel were not necessarily representative of his org, followed by saying that Texas takes insider and social engineering threats very seriously.

Disclosure and Information Sharing

Someone dropped a bomb (of a question) near the end. The panel was asked what it thought about the recent public disclose of PLC/SCADA vulnerabilities in the OT products of half a dozen vendors, to include the attack code for each crafted in Metasploit. 

While it seemed like most panelists believed that Dale Peterson of Digital Bond had acted with good intent: to speed up the remediation of the vulnerabilities by their respective vendors, there was substantial disagreement on whether this approach was justified and on whether it would induce the result Peterson said he sought.

One panelist contended that this action was necessary and valuable for "shining a light" on a broken process related to how DHS's ICS Cert works with vendors to resolve known vulnerabilities. The point being, I think, that following the official policies, many vulnerabilities go unremediated if the vendor provides a reason for leaving the vulnerability alone.

But another said that the Basecamp project researchers' unilateral release of vulnerability details and exploits did little except increase the level of risk to asset owners.

The thing that got me was that, knowing the guys on the panel as well as I do, knowing that they are all men of extremely high intelligence and good will, and that they only want what's best for the community, I was really surprised that they disagreed substantially on the issues that the Basecamp disclosure episode surfaced. 

Clearly this is complicated stuff: ethically, technically, culturally. But I think there's no doubt that our thinking is maturing in some respects, and that the industry community, both the users and the vendors, is responding. It will take a long time for Basecamp to fully play out. Hopefully we'll mainly agree, when it does, that it had a net-positive affect on the electric sector's security posture.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Brief Note to IBM Colleagues apres Distributech 2012

I feel compelled to say that, though for several good reasons I rarely discuss IBM or IBMers on this blog, I'm going to make a brief exception because of the experience I just had at an annual electric sector conference where, as usual, IBM had a big booth.

One can easily feel lost in a such a huge company; this was clear to me when the tiny but beloved start-up I worked in for 6 years was acquired by Big Blue 2.5 years ago.

For those of you who've had a start-up experience or two, you know how close you can get to your teammates. The blood, sweat and tears experiences you share can't help but bind you together into something not much different than a close family.

I'm a nostalgic person, so seeing comrades from that company disbanded, either blending into different organizations in IBM, or else leaving altogether for different opportunities, was sad and difficult.

But now, after having "put faces to names" of people from around the country and around the world I speak with nearly every day but have never met in person, and reconnecting with others I've encountered before at previous conferences and on customer visits, I feel a similar and familiar sense of connection.

Many of these folks, besides ranging from somewhere between bright and brillant in intellect (and skewed towards the latter), also have hearts of gold and work their butts off to make things good happen for the company, its customers and partners, and their colleagues. I won't name names, but I feel lucky and proud to have the opportunity to work with so many of them.

As for security, several IBM energy sector security gurus and I responded to some wide-ranging security, privacy and compliance questions throughout. I count these guys as friends, and we had a great time hanging out together.

And finally, check this out: our teamwork seems to be paying off as IBM was just listed as one of the very top Smart Grid security firms in the business. We're all pretty darned happy for that recognition. And this announcement, made at the conference, describes new work IBM is doing with transmission provider Velco in Vermont to improve substation communications, with a good dose of cybersecurity, of course!

Image credit: IBM SmartrEnergy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Runner's Ode to San Antonio's River Walk

Prefatory note: if you only want to read about the Smart Grid and/or security, you'll want to skip this post.

Because it's only about how I came to an electric sector industry conference, and, running sneakers in hand (so to speak), fell in love with an amazing concept, that's equal parts hydraulic engineering, design, landscape architecture, and xeriscaping, all coming together to express a colossal and coherent artistic vision.

That's the River Walk. which you can read about here on its official site, or for something a little less promotional, here's its page on Wikipedia. Many folks pass through quickly and think it's just a glittery and gimmicky place to which one comes to consume a few mariachi-accompanied margaritas. Oh how wrong they are.

To a native Bostonian such as myself, the first and best comparison, I think, is to the work of the landscape architecture rock star of his age, Frederick Law Olmstead and his fantastic Emerald Necklace.  Of course, the two projects are in some ways nothing alike, separated as they are separated by at least a century and two thousand miles of latitude and longitude.

But for me, it's like Olmstead drank a shot of picante sauce (mild, not too spicy), chased it with a little citrus, guac and mole, and then, in an ecstatic Tex/Mex vision, went right to work. Of course, as Wikipedia reveals (and some locals just know), it wasn't Olmstead or any other city-slicking easterner who conjured up the River Walk, but rather San Antonio native and architect Robert Hugman, who, with a little help from mother nature and the WPA, got this thing off the ground.

In 2012, though I understand one wouldn't want to swim in it, let alone drink it, the walks and grounds are virtually immaculate, and several species of exotic birds seem to enjoy calling it home. On my third and final run in as many days, as I approached a large highway bridge, I came upon the most amazing school of dozens of colorful fish, each about 5 feet long and floating below the bridge but well above my head, suspended by thin wires, transforming an otherwise bleak urban landcape into yet another place of wonder. The whole creation is full of subtle and sometimes less than subtle touches like this.

All I can say is I plan to return, whether or not work takes me here again or not.

Photo credit: Mike Tex on Flickr.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Attention Electric Sector: Wired Reports on Basecamp - SCADA Exploits in the Wild

Several vendors of PLCs and other equipment related to grid operations, in a study described in a recent edition of Wired's "Threat Level" blog, have had their wares probed by a team of experts led by Dale Peterson of Digital Bond, a respected boutique energy-sector control system security shop.

Before saying more, I keep going back to the post called the Value of Black Hat for Smart Grid Security, and maybe now also the Travis Goodspeed Smart Grid Skunkworks piece, because they both showed security technologists trying to spur vendors into action to improve the cybersecurity characteristics of their grid products by describing and sometimes demonstrating vulnerabilities they've found to audiences of cyber security professionals.

This is different, however. Saying they were concerned that their findings might be downplayed and/or ignored by the vendors in question, this time the Peterson-led researchers not only identified the numerous vulnerabilities, but they developed the attack code required to take advantage of them using a tool called Metasploit, and they didn't stop there. They also made the exploits available to the general public without giving the vendors or DHS' ICS Cert a chance to intercede.

As Peterson puts it:
... a large percentage of the vulnerabilities the researchers found were basic vulnerabilities that were already known to the vendors, and that the vendors had simply “chosen to live with” them rather than do anything to fix them.  Everyone knows PLC’s are vulnerable, so what are we really disclosing? We’re just telling you how vulnerable they are.
I definitely have mixed feelings about this. It's certainly raising the stakes to a whole new level. Utilities probably need to double-check their assets to see how many of them match those in the study, and see if there are any vulnerabilities they didn't know about previously. Chances are most if not all have mitigating strategies in place already that should cover them ... but still.

The vendors identified in the report are likely in turmoil as result of the report, and my guess is this topic is going to be owned by their lawyers for some time, if not from now on. And that might mean that instead of accelerating remediation efforts by vendors, this action may contribute to an unwitting slow-down. But I don't really know, and we'll all have to see how this plays out.

On the plus side, the research has led to some new products and plug-ins for utilities that can simplify the job of identifying insecurely configured control systems. Not sure if they'll trust them enough to use them, but maybe.

That's it for now. My highest value on the blog is accuracy. I would be happy to get reader clarification if I've garbled this somehow. Thanks and stay tuned.

BTW: You can read the full Wired article HERE.

Photo credit: tallkev on Flickr.com

Notes from Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) Privacy Panel at Distributech

Just a couple things for you here related to privacy. First, here's a link to the good organization that sponsored this event, the SGCC.

One of my co-panelists from a Texas utility brought up a great point I thought ... a challenge that's facing most utilities these days, when she said that a big challenge for her team is how they can know, with confidence, if a 3rd party really has been authorized (by the customer) to access their data. That's a part privacy, part security question, and I'm going to have to ponder that one a bit, and maybe bring in a larger brained colleague or two.

So why does the SGCC need to exist?  First, it funds the research that provides a wealth of great consumer and marketing data to utilities, regulators, and other interested stakeholders. You can click HERE to get their 2012 State of the Consumer report (brief registration required).

But here's another reason, and we talked about this a little on the panel.  It's because absent a sane and sensible, reality-based organization like SGCC getting the facts out, many consumers might be swayed by the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) they're exposed to in the mainstream media as well as in newer channels like Youtube.

This video you're about to see has been watched 1.5 million times, and during its 4 minute run-time the narrator calls smart meters" "power company surveillance devices" and closes with what has to be one of the greatest pieces of alarmist hyperbole I've yet come across. I think you'll like it too:
Those friendly guys on the sidewalk (utility servicemen and women) told me they plan to put a smart meter on every house in America. If they do that, it will no longer be America.
Jeez Louise. Good night America. Good night and good luck. Here you GO.


And just in, here's a great reader response to the smart meter scare video above:
You’d think there would be more of an outcry over the fact an ISP can see everything they do online, mobile phone carriers can see every incoming and outgoing call and SMS, triangulate their global positions, etc., traffic cameras and OnStar know where their car is at all times, and yet they are worried about someone being able to see their energy data? Maybe opponents should just build their own private power plants and take themselves off the grid completely.
The day may come to pass when that last suggestion is feasible for the mainstream. But for now, your local utility is still far and away your best bet for large quantities of reliable and reasonably priced electrons. Why not help them as they help you, by letting them upgrade equipment to improve their own operations, and serve you and your fellow customers better? I'm just saying ...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Conference Alert: European Smart Grid Cyber Security

It's going to be in London on 12 and 13 March 2012

Great speaker line-up with experts from both sides of the pond, includes:

  • Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, Deputy Director, Mike St John Green
  • European Commission, Policy Officer, DG Information Society and Media, Alejandro Pinto
  • National Information Security Authority, Israel , Director, Erez Kreiner
  • Enisa, Program Manager Resilience and CIIP Program, Dr. Vangelis Ouzounis
  • Queen’s University Belfast, Director of Research, Professor Sakir Sezer
  • NIST, Chief Cyber Security Advisor, William Barker
  • Con Edison New York, Smart Grid Project Manager, Patricia Robison
  • Swissgrid ag, TSO Security Cooperation, Senior Advisor Operations, Rudolf Baumann
  • EDP Energie SA, Information and Cyber Security Officer, Nuno Emanuel Pereira
  • Sirrix AG security technologies, Project Manager, Michael Gröne
  • GDF Suez, Information Security & Business Continuity, Phillip Jones
  • IOActive, Vice President, Services, David Baker
  • Institute for Information Security, Executive Director, University of Tulsa, David Greer
  • Alliander, Senior Consultant Intelligent Netbeheer, Frans Campfens
  • Saudi Aramco, Information Protection Specialist, Saad Alhowaymel
  • Zigbee Alliance, Security Working Group Chair, Robert Cragie
  • Alliander, Privacy & Security Officer, Johan Rambi
  • Energy Networks Association, Head of Strategic Telecommunications, Mark Simpson
  • Riscure, Director Embedded Technology, Job de Haas
  • SAIC, Chief Cyber Technologist, Gilbert Sorebo
Click HERE for more information.

Photo credit: Matt from London on Flickr.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Help Build the Cybersecurity Workforce the Electric Sector Needs Now

So reports of successful attacks in every geography and sector just keep coming and you wonder whether our increasingly connected industry is going to survive the cyber deluge, what with aging infrastructure, aging people, and fraying nerves.

Well, some highly motivated people, unhappy with the status quo, are organizing a response and now you and your org can be play an important part. The National Bureau of Information Security Examiners (NBISE) in conjunction with DOE's Pacific Northwest National Lab are building .. (their words now):
.... a detailed Job Performance Model (JPM) for Smart Grid cybersecurity personnel in the functional areas of security operations, intrusion analysis, and incident response. We are currently in the process of identifying organizations to assist in the distribution of a Job Analysis Questionnaire (JAQ) devised in collaboration with a team of 30 senior cybersecurity professionals from stakeholder organizations involved in the development, deployment, and maintenance of the Smart Grid. This is an important effort to gather the experience of existing cybersecurity professionals from the industry.
I've played a small part in some of the early work and can attest these folks really have their act together.

So don't just sit there. The JAQ is coming Jan 25th and that's a little less than a week away. Click HERE for an excellent 10 slide overview, and please consider adding your expertise, as well as the heavy duty cybersecurity SMEs you're lucky enough to work with, to the team.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GoodSpeed to the Rescue for Pernicious Smart Grid Hardware/Firmware Security Problems

Very much in the spirit of an SGSB post that's turned out to be pretty popular: The Value of Black Hat to Smart Grid Security, free spirited hacker genius Travis Goodspeed is starting something that might raise a few vendors' hackles. But actually, because it may incite some anxiety, it may also get some results.

In Travis' own words, here's the raison d'etre of his new iniative, called "Smart Grid Skunkworks":  
Recent vulnerabilities found in smart meters and HAN devices have shown a number of weaknesses in the engineering practices used to build these devices and their constituent components. A vulnerability in a chip or library is fixed slowly, and it is a very rare event that the meter and thermostat vendors affected by the vulnerability are notified by their suppliers. Because of this, vulnerabilities are spreading downward through the supply chain, and the engineers of smart grid devices are left uninformed.
There are technology and business issues at work here. And more than a little corporate psychology too. 

Left alone, this seemingly intractable set of esoteric problems would likely never be solved. But that's what got Travis charged up, it seems, so much so that he dreamed up this movement and ended his call to action with:
I invite you to join me in preventing smart grid vulnerabilities before they are created.
I've given you the bookends, but you should definitely read the whole piece yourself, HERE. And then if you've got the technical chops to help, and you won't get yourself in too much hot water, this might be just the thing for you.

Photo credit: Travis Goodspeed on Flickr.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

MIT Palantir Reveals Future Views of Grid and Grid Security

And as in the Lord of the Rings, few can look into a palantir and walk away unscathed. That's true for this recently released grid forecast from MIT, and especially for the sections on cyber security, which have served as the justification for many alarmist articles since, including:
What the hell does that last title even mean?  I read the article and still don't get the point.

It's funny but I just went through the security section of the MIT document and couldn't find anything faintly, and nothing that would strike the regular readers of this blog as in any way surprising.

The part that seemed to stir the press pot the most was in the conclusions and recommendations section - it began by stating that no one organization today makes and enforces grid security rules for the entire (US) grid, not FERC or NERC since they only have authority to regulate the bulk grid. Not other groups in DOE. Not DHS. Nor NIST, as its cyber security working groups as they can only recommend, not mandate, protective actions.

So this prompts the MIT report team to conclude:
This lack of a single operational entity with responsibility for grid cybersecurity preparedness as well as response and recovery creates a security vulnerability in a highly interconnected electric power system comprising generation, transmission, and distribution.
And recommend:
The federal government should designate a single agency to have responsibility for working with industry and to have appropriate regulatory authority to enhance cybersecurity preparedness, response, and recovery across the electric power sector, including bulk power and distribution systems.
This sounds right on one level (single source of truth and control) and yet wrong on many others, particularly, as the authors themselves point out, that they are hard pressed to imagine which government organization is equipped or ever could be equipped to take on so monumental a task.

But seriously folks, the MIT report is well worth a look, not so much for its cyber security content, as for its informed prognostications on other aspects of the future grid. There's no need to worry about the Eye of Sauron, or anything else unusually alarming, in this quest for knowledge.

You'll find the full report and some supplementary materials HERE, and the security section begins on page 208.

Image credit: Wikia

Thursday, January 12, 2012

SGSB at Distributech 2012 and Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative Symposium

Howdy Y'all. Just an FYI that I'll be attending and working at the IBM booth at this year's Distributech conference in San Antonio, Texas, which runs January 24-26. And the day before, will be speaking on a privacy panel at the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative in the same location as Distributech: the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

In case you haven't been to it before, Distributech is the premier annual electric sector conference and exhibition in North America and it draws a large, global audience. Here's a link for D'Tech. And while we're at it, here's a link for the SGCC symposium.

If you want to accost me about current electric sector security topics and/or find out more about what IBM is doing in the cyber security space (including a massive new re-org around security), please swing by.

Also, for those of you who use Twitter, will be tweeting from the conference and maybe the symposium, using some or all of the hashtags below:
  • #DTech
  • #IBMSmartrEnergy
  • #SGconsumer
  • #SGSblog
Photo credit: StuSeeger on Flickr.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Book Educates and Guides Smart Grid Security Stakeholders

Between them, authors Gib Sorebo, energy sector security lead for SAIC and Michael Echols, expert security consultant to many utilities including, recently, the Salt River Project in Arizona, have the chops to go deep into the technical weeds of grid security risks, challenges and solutions. Fortunately, however, in their just-published book on the subject, their aim is quite different than a technical tour de force:
For those who argue that one cannot secure a system without knowing how it works or the consequences of implementing the wrong security, this book is for you. Our goal is to make the Smart Grid and all its warts accessible to not only cyber security practitioners, but also to media, policymakers, regulators, engineers, utility executives, and even to consumers to understand the interplay between the automation of the electric grid and security.
Titled Smart Grid Security: an End-to-End View of Security in the New Electrical Grid, the book is very current, having just become available for purchase on Amazon and elsewhere in December.

There's much I could point out to you that's worthwhile, but the job of the blog is to alert you to the availability of a resource, and give you an opinion on whether it might be worth your time, not to do a full book review.

But to give you a feel for the types of topics Sorebo and Echols reach, consider this piece pulled from a chapter on operations and outsourcing:
Monitoring for cyber-threats through an incident identification and response strategy should extend beyond the traditional boundaries of the utility itself .... Vendors are typically connected to multiple utilities that are connected to multiple vendors ... the question becomes: if Vendor A is compromised,  how many utilities does it affect? And how would those utilities know if they were affected or not?
Sounds pretty overwhelming, but this is not a scare book. Throughout the nearly 300 pages, they keep their descriptions of cyber risks, vulnerabilities and other challenges as dispassionate as possible. The passage above is followed by:
To mitigate [risks like these], utilities and vendors must begin to insert cyber security into their maintenance and support contracts .... If a vendor loses information deemed to be private, then they are generally required to report the fact that there was a breach .... However, there appears to be no legal requirements for a vendor that is compromised and that has direct access to a utilities' control system .... As part of a good incident response security posture, [increased] collaboration may be necessary in the highly interconnected organizations that support the bulk electric system including utilities, vendors and service providers.
So there you go. And there's more helpful details on this and many other topics for folks charged with bringing security capabilities to fruition. I highly recommend this book for anyone for who cares that their grid is as reliable,  efficient and secure as possible, even as it goes through the many changes involved in becoming a Smart Grid.

Monday, January 2, 2012

PJM CEO Speaks Out on Cyber Security and Resilience

In an interview published a couple of weeks before Christmas, Linda Evers of the excellent Smart Grid Legal News blog conducted a brief Q&A with the PJM CEO Terry Boston and got quickly to the subject of grid cyber security.

PJM, in case you're new to this, is the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, an RTO that balances power and oversees wholesale transmission markets across thirteen states and the District of Columbia.

When Evers asked the classic "What keeps you up at night?" Boston responded:
Cyber security. It has changed in the last three to four years. It’s no longer just a matter of trying to keep kids out of the system. Making sure we have security built in not bolted on to all of our networks and systems is probably the most important part of what we do. You have to realize this is a new world we’re in. We have to be very diligent, and we need resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover after a breach or intrusion.
Can't help but feel this approach is realistic and fully in tune with the times, especially in light of the numerous cyber security attacks of 2011 that successfully targeted many different sectors.

With or without a forward-leaning CEO, utilities are regulated to think this way to a certain extent. NERC CIP 009 - Recovery Plans for Critical Cyber Assets insists that asset owners makes plans for responding when their cyber systems are under attack, including when they fail outright or come under the control of the attacker. NERC also wants to see evidence that regular practice sessions and exercises are being conducted, though I don't know how detailed and realistic these exercises are. Looking at the language of CIP 009 it appears that an exercise of some kind, once a year, may suffice to get a clean bill of health in this category.

In my mind, connecting the dots from the reliability of cyber systems to the reliability and quality of performance of generation, transmission and distribution equipment and revealing the potential impacts to the utility and its customers is the work required to build the case for bolstering resilience efforts.

Greatly appreciate it when senior energy-sector leadership articulates practical approaches to dealing with always evolving cyber threats. Feels like a great place to start for 2012.