Gerry Cauley,
President & CEO,
NERC
 
Washington, DC, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- June 3, 2010 - Given the vulnerabilities of smart grid technologies a national testing and certification center where all components should undergo rigorous security testing prior to installation on the system should be considered.

This proposal is made in a new report on high impact, low frequency event risk to the North American bulk power system from the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The concern is that smart grid devices create a potential path for cyber vulnerability. In particular the concern is not with the attack or manipulation of a single smart meter or device, but the potential for sabotage of an entire smart meter network or a significant portion thereof, which may control a significant amount of load. The potential for remote disconnect and manipulation of demand response programs needed for reliability is of most concern, followed by the provision of additional access points to distribution and transmission systems via communications channels. Similarly, manipulating data stream from phasor measurement units (PMU) may have significant impact on bulk power system reliability.

The report says the NERC, DOE, and appropriate government authorities in Canada should work with technology and software suppliers and the international community to encourage the development of forensic and adaptive network security tools for control systems. The authorities should specifically support research and development of protection and mitigation tools for cyber attack against the bulk power system. These tools should include enhanced forensic and cyber network monitoring capabilities, tools and protocols to allow for the graceful degradation of the system, and improved security for bulk power system components.

The report, which is based on a 2009 workshop, considers the three areas of coordinated cyber and physical attack, pandemic illness – the principal vulnerability being the loss of staff critical to operating the electric power system – and geomagnetic and electromagnetic events, which are not a new threat but may be much greater than previously anticipated (see NASA warns of impact of severe space weather on grid).

“The electric sector has a long history of successfully managing day-to-day risk to the reliability of the bulk power system,” commented Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of NERC. “This report is another step in the sector’s continuing efforts to ask the tough questions about potential risks and the steps that will be needed to continually enhance the sector’s risk posture.”

The resultant proposals for action are intended to provide input into a formal action plan to address these issues. NERC and the DOE say they will work together with the electric sector, manufacturers, and other government authorities to support the development and execution of a clear and concise action plan to ensure accountability and coordinated action going forward.