Cybersecurity Best Practices

The U.S. electric grid is in the middle of a cyber war.

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The Threat to the Electric Grid

Every day, U.S. utility companies fend off millions of attempts to penetrate computer systems, equipment, and digital control systems. According to the FBI and Homeland Security, many of the attempts come from China, Iran, Iraq, and Russia. And while a “cyber Pearl Harbor”— an event that shuts down the whole world simultaneously — has not occurred yet, our nation cannot let the looming threat of a nationwide power outage go unanswered.

Imagine a United States in which phones, the internet and television cease to operate; cars, trucks, trains and airplanes are idled because fuel pumps and charging stations are disabled; banks and ATMS are inoperable; home heating and air conditioning systems no longer work; food and clean water supplies dwindle; and fire and police, hospitals and other emergency services are largely unavailable.

The world witnessed an event of this type in December 2015 when Ukraine’s electric grid was systematically taken down by cyber intruders in an event that disabled electric distribution companies, including 30 of their substations, and left 230,000 people in the dark. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that if the U.S. electricity supply is severely reduced or eliminated, our nation would grind to a halt in a matter of days. The quick result would be devastation.

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Protect Our Power has identified more than 80 topics related to Best Practices for Cybersecurity Solutions. For each topic, we will provide a short overview, a list of the vendors who provide products or solutions that address that topic, and a link to the university or universities evaluating those vendor offerings.

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Universities, colleges and research labs are conducting valuable research on vendor product offerings and solutions that address a broad range of cybersecurity issues and challenges. The results of these analyses are published here and will be updated as new information becomes available.

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More than 1,000 suppliers and vendors provide hardware and software solutions to the utility industry to address cybersecurity issues and threats. Those vendors are listed here, grouped according to the cybersecurity topic that their product offerings address.

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Our Solution: Cybersecurity Best Practices

In today’s world of rapidly evolving cyber threats, cybersecurity protection needs to change and adapt to new threats on a constant basis, and do so across both the Bulk Power System and local electric distribution systems to ensure the security and resilience of the entire grid.

Protect Our Power supports industry-wide adoption of existing and emerging Best Practices for Cybersecurity to prevent or mitigate cyberattacks on the grid by using new processes, equipment and software that can provide a higher level of protection than existing standards alone require or achieve.

The Cybersecurity Solutions program was developed to define, evaluate, update, and make available to utility companies a list of solutions and their vendors that are being successfully deployed, or are available for implementation, to create a more resilient grid.

Project Advisors

The Project Advisory Board meets quarterly by conference call to discuss the status of the Cybersecurity Best Practices project, as well as growing or changing industry needs in order to continuously focus on the most pressing issues and solutions for utility cyber-practitioners.  The discussions and outcomes inform the overall Cybersecurity Best Practices project. 

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The Taxonomy Advisory Board continuously reviews and updates our list of more than current cybersecurity topics of concern to utility companies. The issues are cross-referenced to vendors offering solutions, and the universities that are reviewing those solutions.

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The Criteria Advisory Board develops and provides ongoing guidance to the project’s master criteria set. The criteria set outlines the information or questions a utility needs to know or ask in order to evaluate a vendor and make an informed buying decision.

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The Conference Advisory Board meets monthly by conference call to discuss the agenda and potential speakers for Protect Our Power’s next annual Best Practices for Utility Cybersecurity conference.  The annual conference features speakers from government, the utility industry, the supply chain, and academia focused on the latest in cybersecurity issues, trends, security, and solutions. 

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