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Smart Grid: what IT managers should know

A Smart Grid or intelligent power grid is basically a power network that uses internet technologies to enable two-way communication, coordination and control.

The vision of a Smart Grid starts with the overlay of an increasingly IP-based information network on top of the connecting elements of the existing power grid.

In the longer term, the Smart Grid will include rethinking the architecture of power generation and distribution to make the electricity grid more decentralized, resilient, secure and responsive to consumer demand and the provision of public services.

Architecturally similar to the Internet, the Smart Grid is hierarchical and has clear demarcation points. Energy utilities run the generation and interstate links of the network, equivalent to the backbone of an ISP (internet service provider).

Within a metropolitan area or neighborhood, local utilities run a neighborhood area network (NAN), equivalent to a metropolitan area network (MAN).

The Smart Grid reaches individual homes and businesses through the advanced metering infrastructure, which is like a local ISP’s DSL network – the last mile to the “smart meter”.

Within a building or home, consumers and businesses manage a home network or building automation system, which is the smart grid equivalent of a local area network (LAN).

The smart meter also acts as a network termination point or input router, a demarcation between the utility network and the home network or building automation system.

The interface between your building automation network and the utility supply will be smart. This brings huge opportunities for automation as well as severe management and security challenges.

What should IT managers know about Smart Grid?

The introduction of IP coincides with the merger of IT facilities and organizations. Companies are adding automation to buildings and the resulting networks are increasingly managed by the IT department.

The building automation network connected to a Smart Grid is rapidly becoming a network-based application running on a converged LAN, just as voice networks began converging onto data networks a decade ago.

In short, building automation will be an application that you must support on your network in the future. As with voice, this new network application will present unique management, quality of service (QoS) and security issues.

For example, building automation directly affects the physical space in our offices, creating unique management challenges, and systems must be secured against unauthorized access to a building or room.

But even without malicious interference, we need to ensure that future building automation systems and smart grids are as reliable as current systems.

A “smart” light switch should turn on the light instantly and every time, just as a voice over IP (VoIP) phone should provide a dial tone, instantly and every time.

The lesson of VoIP was that mechanical systems are inherently more reliable and it is not simple to achieve the same level of resilience and quality with a computerized system.

The Smart Grid will provide near real-time price updates and statistics on overall energy use

In our example, building automation connected to a Smart Grid will allow you to control the skylight, blinds, lights, vents and even micro power plants such as solar panels, fuel cells and diesel generators.

This can enable adjustment of energy consumption and local generation patterns in response to prices and can also offer organizations the possibility to sell energy back to the grid.

Businesses can also be warned of impending power quality issues (such as power outages, spikes, supply shortages and blackouts) and adjust power usage or distribution to prioritize critical systems or unplug spike-sensitive devices.

Managing and securing this new network will require new skills, new hardware and new software. It will also require new types of firewalls, denial of service protections and security policies.

The Smart Grid will extend to your network, bringing new opportunities and new challenges. To prepare your business for the smart grid, you should start with organizational convergence between IT and facilities, followed by data convergence between IT networks and building automation systems.

Hybrid Infographic HSM

Eval and Thales together to ensure the protection of Smart Grids

At a time when energy utilities play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives, smart grid technologies, including those leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT), present new smart grid security challenges that must be addressed.

Implementing a smart grid without adequate security of advanced metering infrastructure can result in grid instability, loss of private information, utility fraud and unauthorized access to energy consumption data.

Without proper security, the benefits of IoT-based energy, such as reliable directional communication between applications and devices, as well as secure information gathering for accurate big data analytics, would not be realized.

Effective security equipment manufacturers, consumers and utility providers with the confidence to leverage the power of IoT.

Building a reliable and secure smart grid will require robust smart grid security solutions that can be easily deployed at the communication and application layers of the smart grid infrastructure.

Areas where smart grid protection is critical include:

  • Device manufacturing;
  • Secure communications;
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications;
  • Field firmware updates and provisioning;
  • Device authentication;
  • Secure meter management;
  • Protecting data integrity and privacy.

The importance of security in Smart Grid with PKI and HSMs

Smart Grid security solutions must be able to deploy on a large scale, with minimal effect on applications.

Smart grid protection at the communication layer will require a system to identify connected meters, to verify that these meters are configured correctly, and to validate these meters for grid access.

The recommended solution for this authentication process is an identity-based model, usually a public key infrastructure (PKI).

PKIs are ideal for large-scale security deployments that require a high level of security with minimal impact on performance.

In a PKI environment, it is essential that private keys and certificates are protected with a trusted key management solution that protects against evolving data threats, such as hardware security modules (HSMs).

Thales Hardware Security Modules provide the highest level of security by always storing cryptographic keys in hardware.

Thales HSMs provide a secure encryption foundation as the keys never leave the FIPS-validated, intrusion-resistant and tamper-resistant device.

Since all cryptographic operations take place inside the HSM, strong access controls prevent unauthorized users from accessing confidential cryptographic material.

In addition, Thales also implements operations that make deploying secure HSMs as easy as possible, and our HSMs are integrated with the Thales Crypto Command Center for fast and easy partitioning, reporting, and monitoring of cryptographic resources.

Learn more about the use of HSM applied to Smart Grid technology from Eval’s experts and learn how to apply encryption capabilities effectively in your smart grid. We are happy to answer your questions and help you define the best ways to make your network smart and reliable.

About Eval

EVAL has been developing projects in the financial, health, education, and industry segments for over 18 years. Since 2004, we have offered solutions for Authentication, Electronic and Digital Signature, and Data Protection. Currently, we are present in the main Brazilian banks, health institutions, schools and universities, and different industries.

With value recognized by the market, EVAL’s solutions and services meet the highest regulatory standards of public and private organizations, such as SBIS, ITI, PCI DSS, and LGPD. In practice, we promote information security and compliance, increase companies’ operational efficiency, and reduce costs.

Innovate now, lead always: get to know Eval’s solutions and services and take your company to the next level.

Eval, safety is value.

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