When evaluating your security system, it’s worth your time to consider how it supports compliance with NERC CIP, the Critical Infrastructure Protection plan of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. The 12 published NERC standards are aimed at regulating, enforcing, monitoring and managing the security of the Bulk Electric System (BES) in North America. Here’s a summary of what utilities should aim to achieve for each requirement and what to look for in a security system to help meet those requirements.

CIP-002-5.1a: Cybersecurity — management controls. The goal is to categorize different BES Cyber Systems based on potential impact levels to better understand how to manage vulnerabilities and protect assets while regularly maintaining and reviewing them. Look for a security system that can provide an up-to-date breakdown of all connected devices and their statuses, to simplify the review process and quickly identify any that require immediate attention. 

CIP-005-6: Cybersecurity — electronic security perimeter(s). This standard aims to secure access to BES Cyber Systems by keeping critical assets within a designated electronic security perimeter and closely monitoring them in case of suspicious activity. Organizations should ensure all security systems connected to the network infrastructure require secure authentication, encrypted communications, and users that have role-based permissions to access critical assets. Make sure an activity trail report of access is available to simplify investigations/audits. 

CIP-008-6: Cybersecurity — incident reporting and response planning. To comply, put in place procedures to identify, classify, and respond to cybersecurity incidents and keep complete records of the incident and management process to report to the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) for forensic analysis. A centralized security system that keeps a complete log of network activity and access, as well as a full history of the asset configuration data, will simplify investigation and recovery when required. Utilities should look for technology partners that can provide emergency support in case of a catastrophic system failure or cyberattacks. 

CIP-013-1: Cybersecurity — supply chain risk management. Utilities should aim to develop a plan to identify and assess risk to BES posed by vendor products or services. It’s important to ensure all critical vendors that are supporting the smooth functioning of the BES have clear cybersecurity guidelines in place that will not put the BES at risk. Ensure system providers do not have access to your system by default without consent, particularly in system-to-system remote access. Here are six questions to ask vendors to better manage supply chain risk. 

More information on how your security system can help you with NERC CIP Compliance here.