Oct 20, 2016 1:24:39 PM
Securing Network-Connected Sensors in the Energy Industry

How Can the Energy Sector Protect Itself From Cyber Threats?

The Takeover of Network-Connected Sensors in the Energy Industry

The problems of the energy sector, including increasing conservation efforts, greater emphasis on alternative energy sources, and the concurrent use of more power, may be a challenge to resolve, but many solutions lie in technology; particularly the innovations available through Internet of Things applications, as pointed out by Deloitte.

The energy sector is jumping on the IoT bandwagon in an effort to mitigate the industry-wide lack of access to adequate and efficient data. According to Energy Digital, the IoT is going to completely upend the way human beings use energy by providing consumers actionable insight that details real-time energy consumption at a granular level (think small appliance usage) in order to generate personalized recommendations based on the data that was collected.

Here are a few ways IoT will change energy:

  • Drive innovation

The evolution of the IoT is expected to be comparable to mobile apps revolution; it grew from a small-scale test market to an entire industry currently worth more than $25 billion and growing exponentially. Most tech experts predict that the proliferation of the IoT will be similar. For energy, it is likely IoT will spur many industry innovations, including new ways of consuming energy.

  • Convenience

The IoT is expected to significantly reduce complexity of managing energy consumption from disparate locations by providing centralized management from multiple endpoints. People will be able to control their dishwashers remotely, using their mobile device.

  • Forecasting and solving problems

IoT impacts big data as a practice area because it inherently generates massive amounts of machine-generated data. Couple with analytics, the IoT will produce detailed insights on equipment and infrastructure. General Electric is currently working on an IoT sensor that will monitor turbines, with the purpose of reducing downtime.

 

Impacts to Cybersecurity in Energy

IoT brings many promising benefits to the energy sector and its consumers—its impacts will primarily be positive, though the changes a challenge to manage. However, to security practitioners, as explained by Eaton in their recent white paper, “The Internet of Things and the energy sector: myth or opportunity,” the IoT is quite the threatening prospect. 

Everyone has heard the statistic—the number of the number of connected IoT devices worldwide will reach 50 billion by 2020. The life enhancements they bring are no doubt a benefit to society; but with each new device comes potential security vulnerabilities. Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) attacks, large-scale botnets, and malware distribution are major concerns that the world hasn’t quite figured out how to control.

 

Securing Energy Sensors is a Critical Cybersecurity Concern

IT leadership in the energy sector have a daunting task ahead of them—securing every sensor they connect to the Internet. The data will be helpful to them, and consumers, but they’ll have to protect the data, as well as the personal information of its users. As pointed out by Eaton, cybersecurity needs to be built into the IoT.

So far, most of the emphasis in IoT technologies has been placed on the features the products offer rather than the security which should be inherent by design. Every day, security researchers are identifying new vulnerabilities in every IoT device from cars with built-in computers to smart TVs; hacking stories are surfacing all the time.

Unfortunately, many device manufacturers offer technical expertise that specialize in those same areas—design and development; not cybersecurity. Therein lies the problem.

 

Using PKI to Secure Energy Sensors

Upholding security and compliance and preventing outages and cyber-attacks in the energy industry will be essential to the continued integration of the IoT. Energy sector providers should consider the use of PKI to support the increase in automation and reliance on IoT devices and software. Using PKI as a security tool will protect high-value data, proprietary processes and physical property.

Energy sector suppliers should also review weakness in their current processes and equip each sensor with a digital certificate. Using certificate management software will help manage each certificate’s lifecycle, as well as the CA that issued it. Implementing these controls will significantly strengthen overall security posture and reduce the risk of outage or breach.

CSS can work with you with to assess whether your organization has weaknesses in your current environment, or help you evaluate implementing a PKI from scratch.

 

If your security organization would like to learn more about how PKI and CMS can safeguard your critical data, our experts are here for you. Contact us to talk about your PKI needs.

 

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