The advent of smart grid security is making energy systems more efficient for the producer and the consumer. The traditional one-way model of power distribution from the power plant to the end-user is being eclipsed by IoT technology. Here’s a look at why cybersecurity must improve for smart grids, which streamline the way utilities distribute electricity to communities.
What Defines a Smart Grid?
A smart grid connects a utility company with its customers through IoT devices. This connectivity allows both the utility company and the customer to track energy consumption. Now that data is exchanged between the two parties, it’s easier to plan for energy savings by reducing consumption. All the customer has to do is check their daily energy consumption to avoid surprises in their monthly bills.
The components of a smart grid include smart meters, smart appliances, and clean energy sources. The term smart is applied to technology capable of two-way electronic communication. It’s the key to collecting big data on operational processes, which turns into the analytics managers use to make qualitative decisions.
Another reason for the term smart in modern two-way technology is that IoT devices integrate with AI software, which allows a system to correct itself. The result is effective, automated problem-solving actions. But this advanced system requires robust IT infrastructure and strong smart grid security. A smart grid’s self-correcting capability is referred to as FLISR, which stands for Fault Location, Isolation and Service Restoration.
The technology is able to identify system faults through communication diagnostics. It’s able to respond to power failures or dropouts by reconfiguring the flow of electricity in the distribution system. The system analyzes vast amounts of data from different resources, then provides automated solutions based on programming. Since smart infrastructure has so many interactive endpoints, it’s crucial to use the most advanced security available.
Main Security Challenges with Smart Grids
One of the biggest challenges currently facing utilities moving toward smart grids is the lack of associated cybersecurity standards. It’s important to set U.S. standards (as the E.U. has done) so that officials from different cities can alert each other when a cyberattack spreads. Utilities should also be selective about partnering with metering companies and insist they future-proof their products for easy integration with new technology.
A worst-case scenario involving a cyberattack on a smart grid system would be if an entire city went dark. Another concern for utilities is improving the security of smart meters so that people can’t tamper with data to cut costs. The use of thousands of sensors communicating with each other increases the opportunities of a breach, so governments must require high-quality cybersecurity among utilities.
Firms using smart technology are advised by tech experts to use security by design, which is a proactive strategy to reducing cyber threats from the start of product development. Smart grid operators need to approach security as a learning process in the sense that hackers keep getting more sophisticated and security solutions for smart grids take time to refine.
Some of the top industry players in designing security for the smart grid market include Intel, Siemens, IBM, Symantec, Cisco, and Honeywell. One security solution beyond the basics mentioned by Intel in a white paper is security information and event management (SIEM), which falls under security by design. This system of networks contributing cybersecurity tips helps analyze attacks and alert others of threats. Another solution called application whitelisting ensures only allowed files are executed in a system.
The new world of smart grid security is a more intense version of regular cybersecurity. As complex electronic systems become more interconnected, it will be crucial for large power producers to use the best security solutions available. Staying ahead of the curve with nextgen cybersecurity technology will be part of what defines successful manufacturing and utility companies of the future.