Web extra: Critical infrastructure cybersecurity standards coming

NIST plans to issue some this summer, and the power industry has already taken steps toward standardization.

New federal and industry standards for critical infrastructure cybersecurity are here or due soon, experts say.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has an ongoing multidisciplinary effort to provide guidance on the application of Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements to industrial control systems, said Keith Stouffer, a mechanical engineer at the Intelligence Systems Division of NIST’s Mechanical Engineering Laboratory. He is also chairman of the Process Control Security Requirements Forum, which has 400 member organizations from 32 countries.

FISMA governs federal information technology security. Industrial control systems are the nervous system for all critical infrastructure and oversee the operation of everything from nuclear power plants to traffic lights.

NIST is developing standards for industrial control systems security for federal and private-sector facilities, Stouffer said. The agency plans to issue an appendix to Special Publication (SP) 800-53, which governs FISMA, by this summer, he said.

The first public draft of a new document, SP 800-82, “Guide to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and Industrial Control System Security,” is expected in June, he said.

The power industry has already taken steps toward standardization. The North American Electric Reliability Council, an industry organization, approved eight new cybersecurity standards May 2.

The council will file the standards with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in hopes that they will become industrywide standards, council officials said.

Council standards mitigate the majority of risk of cyberattacks for the facilities that follow them, said Chrisan Herrod, executive consultant for compliance solutions at Scalable Software.

The lack of standards is a main reason why critical infrastructure owners and operators have not implemented cybersecurity measures at their facilities, Stouffer said. Government and industry should share information about security best practices, he added.

The government should provide regulations and incentives for IT security companies to offer better products for control system security, said Jason Larson, senior cybersecurity researcher at the Idaho National Laboratory, which leads federal research into critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Infrastructure owners and product vendors should take security seriously and incorporate dependable security products and procedures, he said.

But most small operators don’t have the money, workforce or expertise to implement IT security for their control systems, said John Sebes, chief technology officer and general manager of the public sector at Solidcore, which develops software that monitors changes to servers and prevents unauthorized code from running on them. They will only get serious about control system security when the federal government and big operators do, he said.

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