NERC’s annual Grid Security Conference, GridSecCon, brought together cyber security and physical security experts from around the nation to share the latest policy advancements and lessons learned in throughout the electricity industry over the past year. Network Perception was excited to attend the largest GridSecCon yet, joining industry and government leaders October 22nd – 25th in Atlanta, GA to collaborate on the analysis and advancements of security information in the industry.
Managing risk and uncertainty is an ongoing concern for many utility professionals, which makes the GridSecCon conference an important forum for cyber and physical security experts to learn, share, and identify new solutions for their tool kit. In fact, according to the 2019 Utility Dive, State of the Electric Utility Survey, 85% of Utility Professionals identify Cyber Security and Preparedness as their top concern. Contributing to the market demand for new and effective solutions, the Network Perception team showcased and demonstrated our NP-View and NP-Live platform solutions at the conference, demonstrating how users can simplify compliance management and achieve real-time visibility into their network.
Each day GridSecCon embraced a different theme providing unique insights on best practices and trends for policies, procedures, research and development, threat analysis and threat detection in the electricity industry.
Training Tracks Discuss Key Network and Firewall Risks
he first day of GridSecCon, October 22nd, kicked off with six different training tracks for industry professionals to refresh their skills and gain valuable knowledge about key aspects of the industry.
The Network Perception team attended Axio’s session on “Measuring, Communicating and Quantifying Cyber Risk” in which the importance of active network security monitoring as part of reducing cyber risk was presented, followed by an informative session, “Exercise Chaos Management”, taught by Steven Briggs at Tennessee Valley Authority.
In the afternoon training track, “Reducing Human Error in Cyber Event Response”, ResilientGrid Inc. explained why GUI/HMI design is key for the proper response and why it’s important to create ongoing habits of practicing and reviewing items to continuously ensure network compliance.
Keynote Speeches Address Ongoing Strategies and Threats to the Industry
The second day of GridSecCon, October 23rd, began with a welcome address and opening keynote by Jim Robb, President and Chief Executive Officer at NERC, who spoke about Homeland Security’s ongoing effort to ensure the security and reliability of the electric grid from both physical and cyber attacks.
This was followed by a keynote from Karen Evans, a primary overseer for much of the energy sector as the Assistant Secretary of CESER at the Department of Energy. Each keynote offered a different perspective on how various areas are making cybersecurity a priority and the measures being implemented to prevent against an attack. Brian Harrell, the Assistant Director of CISA at Homeland Security, former NERC official and a founder of GridSecCon, spoke of Homeland Security’s goals and the agency’s ongoing efforts to ensure network security.
Research and Development Highlight Improved Network Security Solutions
Day three of GridSecCon, or “Solutions Day”, October 24th, focused on new and emerging technologies advancing security in the industry. Currently, the industry at large is struggling to manage an abundance of data while facing a shortage of people to process and understand it. To mitigate these challenges, research and development efforts are producing game changing solutions, building smarter apps and software to process and provide timely and actionable insights on that network data.
The day began with two panel discussions: “Building a Cyber Threat Model and Coordinating Cyber Threat Intelligence” moderated by Jeff Jones at E-ISAC, and “Game-Changing Research, Development and Deployment moderated by Hailey Siple, Manager of National Security Policy at EEI with panelists from MITRE, NRECA and EPRI. The discussions progressed with a focus on Natural Gas Interdependencies, a growing component of our critical infrastructure. While natural gas many not have the same visibility as “the grid”, it is an essential upstream element in power generation on the grid and requires the same level of network security scrutiny as deployed in electric systems.
Following lunch, were the Lightning Round of Security Solutions where nine different companies presented on major industry problems their platforms solve. A notable presentation by Ray Sefchik, Director of Reliability Assurance at ReliabilityFirst, focused on Cyber Resilience Metrics in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where NP-View originated.
GridSecCon concluded with two final panels, one focusing on the Physical Security Outlook for the industry and the other discussing GridEx V. Given that GridEx V will be held November 13 – 14th, the discussions were especially timely and centered around the latest aspects of the industry-wide response plan which a growing number of utilities participate in bi-yearly.
Network Perception Looks Forward to GridSecCon 2020
Overall, the three days at GridSecCon 2019 were an ideal opportunity for Network Perception to meet with other industry leaders and learn more about trends and advancements within the industry. Additionally, it provided the team a forum to speak with other professionals about the NP View and NP Live platforms and how they equip utilities with a simple network visualization supporting internal and external audits, while providing continuous CIP compliance for both the GRC and cyber security organizations.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, we would like to extend an invitation for you and your team to join us October 20th – 23rd for GridSecCon 2020.