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Because cyber security threats are diverse and evolving, users should implement multiple levels of security for a “defense in depth.”
How and what to do are just one aspect of the “Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security” from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The guidelines, released Thursday, include high-level security requirements, a framework for assessing risks, and an evaluation of privacy issues at personal residences. They also offer additional information for businesses and organizations to use as they craft strategies to protect the power grid from attacks, malicious code, cascading errors, and other threats.
The three-volume set of guidelines should facilitate organization-specific Smart Grid cyber security strategies focused on prevention, detection, response and recovery. This report comes after two formal public reviews and workshops and teleconferences over the past 17 months.
“As we modernize the nation’s electric infrastructure to make it smarter, more efficient, and more capable, we need to make it more secure from end to end,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “These new cyber security guidelines will help government and industry meet this important responsibility.”
“The development of common Smart Grid standards is a national priority, and these cyber security guidelines are an important step toward that goal,” said U.S Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “If we are to truly modernize our electrical grid, we must have electricity producers, distributors and consumers all speaking the same language and all working together to make our grid more secure. Cyber security is an integral part of the grid.”
The new report, prepared by the Cyber Security Working Group (CSWG) of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, a public-private partnership launched by NIST with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding from the Department of Energy, are the second major output of NIST-coordinated efforts to identify and develop standards needed to convert the nation’s aging electric grid into an advanced, digital infrastructure.
“These advisory guidelines are a starting point for the sustained national effort that will be required to build a safe, secure and reliable Smart Grid,” said George Arnold, NIST’s national coordinator for Smart Grid interoperability. “They provide a technical foundation for utilities, hardware and software manufacturers, energy management service providers, and others to build upon. Each organization’s implementation of cyber security requirements should evolve as technology advances and new threats to grid security arise.”
The guidelines identify 137 interfaces — points of data exchange or other types of interactions within or between different Smart Grid systems and subsystems. These interfaces fall into one or more of 22 categories on the basis of shared or similar functional and security characteristics. In all, the report details 189 high-level security requirements applicable either to the entire Smart Grid or to particular parts of the grid and associated interface categories.
The new report also includes:
• A description of the risk assessment process used to identify the requirements;
• A discussion of technical cryptographic and key management issues across the scope of Smart Grid systems and devices;
• Initial recommendations for addressing privacy risks and challenges pertaining to personal residences and electric vehicles;
• An overview of the process that the CSWG developed to assess whether existing or new standards that enable Smart Grid interoperability also satisfy the high-level security requirements included in the report; and
• Summaries of research needs.
You can download all three volumes at Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security.

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