Utility cybersecurity plan questioned
Proposed standards are seen as too prescriptive and restrictive
Computerworld - CHICAGO -- A set of cybersecurity standards proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) are too detailed in some instances, attendees at an industry conference here said last week.
Users at the Platts Cyber Security for Utilities conference said that if the proposal is adopted, it could lead to regional differences in interpretation and extra compliance work for information security managers at electric utilities.
NERC's proposed cybersecurity standards, known as CIP-002 through CIP-009, cover areas ranging from the security of critical cyberassets to personnel screening and training requirements.
Charles Noble, a member of the NERC drafting committee who is also the information security coordinator at ISO New England in Holyoke, Mass., said the biggest weakness of the proposal is that it's too prescriptive in certain areas, like records management, where it spells out the number of years that specific types of records must be maintained.
A key strength of the proposal is that it's being driven by utilities and not by the federal government, said James Sample, manager of information security services at California Independent System Operator Corp. in Folsom. With utility-driven standards, "we can control our own destiny," Sample said.
NERC's membership includes utilities and related organizations. Its mission is to ensure the reliability of bulk power generation in North America. As a volunteer organization, its standards aren't currently enforceable.
However, the energy bill that's currently being debated by the U.S. Senate includes a proposal to grant NERC regulatory authority. And even if NERC's proposed standards aren't eventually approved by its members, it's widely believed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or state regulatory authorities would step in to create and enforce more-rigid cybersecurity requirements.
If the standards aren't passed by two-thirds of NERC's members as required, "I wouldn't be surprised if FERC doesn't jump on it, make it a federal regulation and toughen up some of the language," said Scott McCoy, director of security at Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc.
To date, NERC members have voted on two drafts of the proposed standards. Earlier this month, the council posted the third draft, which members will be able to comment on for a 45-day period. In late July, the NERC drafting committee will post a final draft for a 30-day review before the next round of voting, said Larry Bugh, chairman of the NERC standard drafting team and manager of IT for the East Central Area Reliability Council, one of 10 regional NERC units.
One of the concerns that industry security managers have is that the current standard, known as UA 1200, is set to
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Radicati: Cloud Business Email - Market Quadrant 2013 Google was named the top cloud business email provider in a recent report by research firm Radicati. Out of 14 key players, Google...
- Tablets in the Enterprise: A Checklist for Successful Deployment How can you enterprise manage and secure tablets in order to protect corporate data while providing access to the information and applications employees...
- Enterprise Mobility: A Checklist for Secure Containerization The advantages and disadvantages of the multiple approaches to containerization. Learn More>>
- Enterprise File Sync & Share Checklist File sync and share has changed the way people work and collaborate in today's tech-savvy world. Gone are the email roadblocks, clunky FTP...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy... All Security White Papers | Webcasts