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
- Global Growing Pains: Tapping into B2B Integration Services to Overcome Global Expansion Challenges A recent survey by IDG Research explored both the challenges and pain points companies face when growing globally, as well as the capabilities...
- The business impact of BYOA: Five major challenges and how your enterprise can solve them This E-Book reviews five major challenges of BYOA with key subject matter experts and outlines how businesses can solve them.
- BYOA: Embracing the Opportunity, Controlling the Risk This whitepaper explores the shift from BYOD to BYOA (bring-your-own-application) and how IT departments today can address this new change in the IT...
- Learn More About Peer 1 Hosting's Mission Critical Cloud Mission Critical Cloud from Peer 1 Hosting is enterprise-ready, creating a perfect point of adoption whether you need an off-premise solution for development
- Cloud and Collaboration: Driving Your Business Value Mission Critical Cloud from Peer 1 Hosting is enterprise-grade.
- Peer 1's Mission Critical Cloud: Your Cloud, Your Way Peer 1 Hosting's Mission Critical Cloud offers the ultimate in flexible customization of infrastructure, resources and support. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!