Cloud, cars and IoT could change grid cybersecurity

The proliferation of connected devices including electric cars could provide grid operators with an operational view of cybersecurity threats.

By Iren Moroz shutterstock ID 566799760
 

The proliferation of connected devices including electric cars could provide grid operators with an operational view of cybersecurity threats and change the way the grid is secured, said Karen Evans, assistant secretary of the Energy Department's Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.

While experts generally consider the internet of things to be a risky ecosystem full of unsecured devices, Evans said there could be an upside. In remarks to researchers from CESER's Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems  (CEDS) program on Nov. 6, Evans said a growing fleet of connected electric-powered vehicles "could become sensors" to provide cybersecurity situational awareness.

"The cybersecurity model can work from the outside," instead of coming from the inside of a system, she told the researchers. Electric cars have to be recharged at homes or other locations, she said.  As they charge, they could reach out from that recharging station to gather threat data from local electric grid infrastructure.

"It could do a wellness check of the grid in that area," said Evans, particularly as mostly privately owned electric grid infrastructure providers create "microgrids" that can operate locally and independently or as part of a larger grid. That wellness data, according to Evans, could be provided to the Department of Homeland Security to help with that agency's overall cybersecurity situational awareness.

CESER, housed at the DOE, is the sector-specific agency responsible for monitoring the U.S. electric infrastructure, but it also passes on threat data and coordinates with DHS.

Using the growing numbers of electric cars as cybersecurity sensors is a goal that could be reached in the relative short term, within two or three years, she told her audience of cybersecurity researchers.

Cloud computing is also altering the cybersecurity posture of infrastructure providers, Evans told FCW in an interview after her remarks.

Cloud adoption among infrastructure providers is growing.

"A lot of the utilities are looking at 'how can I reduce my operating costs and what portions can I actually do that with?'" There is a distinct difference and set of concerns, said Evans, when using the cloud for administrative data and operational data for a grid system.

"Obviously you want to be able to take advantage of the efficiencies of cloud, but then DHS released a bulletin dealing with [threats against] managed services," she said. "CESER’s role is to get as much information out to industry about cloud security as possible.”

The volume of data from remote sensors in pipelines and energy systems has to go somewhere, said Evans, and that could be the cloud in the future.

Some utilities are extremely cautious about moving to the cloud, however, even using air gaps, or physical separation to keep some systems separate from the public internet.

A paper presented at the CEDS conference by Argonne National Laboratory researchers outlined an ongoing project to help grid providers securely move their data to the public cloud.

The project, which began in 2016 and is slated for completion in 2021, uses Amazon Web Services' GovCloud and specialized encryption capabilities that keeps "real" operations data on local servers, while it is decrypted for optimization, then encrypted before being to be moved to the cloud, said Argonne researcher Feng Qiu.

That step, said Qiu, protects against a gap in encryption for the data that could otherwise be exploited by hackers as it is moved into commercial cloud. The technology is designed to work on any commercial cloud, and the lab plans on making it available to the industry as a straight technology transfer or offered as a software-as-a-service for grid providers, he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.