Smart grid operators lack intelligence

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NSA urged to provide threat advice.

Smart grid operators are being kept in the dark about threats to their networks, experts say. 

The networks enable two-way communication between customer appliances and power utilities and are hailed as ushering in a new era of smart devices and insight into consumption rates.

Yet Stewart Baker, a fellow with US think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, together with policy experts said operators were not well placed to fend-off potentially damaging cyber attacks against the infrastructure.

"Without security there are real problems posed on smart grids…that will allow much more fine-tuned attacks," Baker said on a panel at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

The panel said the National Security Agency (NSA) was concerned about attacks against the US power grid but provided little actionable intelligence to grid operators.

"If we really cared about the private sector, we would be bending over backward to see that they have everything they need," said Jason Healey, director of the US-based  Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, a security think tank. "If they have to have what the NSA has, then we should do everything we can to declassify what they have."

Some experts said the US Department of Homeland Security should spearhead change.

"Bringing the government together with the owners and operators would allow them to collaborate and identify what risks there are," said Kevin Gronberg, senior counsel to the US House Committee on Homeland Security.

Panel members said collaboration with the private sector would solve much of the problem since US Government regulation is a long way off.

"Government has a role, but we have to be measured and rational with our use of funding and authority," Gronberg said. "We also have to make sure that we appropriately leverage the expertise that the government brings to the table."

This article originally appeared at scmagazineus.com

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition


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