In today's world, however, every grid, no matter how smart, is subject to cyber attack. “With the proliferation of portable media and smart devices, and the increased difficulty with corralling critical data,” Ernie Hayden, managing principal for Verizon Business, told DistribuTECH that “it's possible to have a data breach at any time under many different circumstances and [managers] must establish a strong, practiced incident response team to protect important data.”

With that in mind, U.S. President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order setting up a voluntary program of cyber security standards for electric utilities and other companies operating critical infrastructure. The order directs federal agencies to consider incorporating new cyber security standards into existing regulations, and directs the government to share more information about computer threats with the private sector and issue more security clearances to allow industry representatives to receive classified information.

Further, the Electric Power Research Institute recently issued a report on “Intrusion Detection Systems for Advanced Metering Infrastructure.” The report — which covers the AMI collection engine, meter data management system and data collection unit as well as meters — gives utilities and AMI vendors a perspective on the unique monitoring requirements of AMI as well as key research challenges related to intrusion detection technology and large-scale deployment. Following are the key takeaways from the report:

  • The need to monitor the edge as well as the head of the communications network

  • The size of AMI networks can present scalability issues

  • The need to protect IDS sensors from becoming compromised.