As power networks become increasingly ‘smart’, the opportunities for attacks against the communication infrastructure increases, as does the potential disruption these attacks may cause. In addition, as older assets are connected to advanced communication infrastructure, the interfaces between devices may be an issue, with legacy hardware requiring protection. In order to guide future work in the area, PNDC undertook a scoping project to assess current threats to our members networks, and where there were areas which needed future development.

Objectives

To undertake an analysis of current threats to PNDC members’ networks, capture their priorities for further research, and propose further projects to tackle those areas of need which are not being addressed by other projects in the UK or abroad.

Method

The work began with a workshop held at the University of Strathclyde attended by cyber-security experts from the member companies, facilitated by security researchers from the University.  This was followed by a series of half-day sessions on site with the different companies security teams, followed by the production of an interim report for comment.  A further round of interviews and work within specific member companies was undertaken before a draft of the final report was produced. Key findings of the work were shared through presentations to the ENA Cyber-security Group in the UK and the EE-ISAC in Europe, followed by a refined final report.

Outcome

The project has produced a final report for members, along with an abstracted report for industry bodies involved in security for the utilities sector.  Three follow-on projects addressing specific areas highlighted in the report are currently being developed at PNDC, and we are collaborating with EE-ISAC on European efforts to address a further area on effective incidence response.

Results

The key concerns of PNDC operator members in terms of securing their networks are, in order of priority:

  • Security across organisational boundaries
  • Improved incident response capabilities
  • Distributed trust management
  • Securing DSO zones
  • Security of IEC 61850
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