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Joseph Weiss's picture
Managing Partner Applied Control Solutions

40+ years in industrial instrumentation controls, and automation 20+ years in cyber security of industrial control systems Authored Protecting Industrial Control Systems from Electronic Threats...

  • Member since 2020
  • 32 items added with 21,309 views
  • Oct 19, 2021
  • 416 views

October 13, 2021, the San Jose Mercury News had the following headline: “High-wire act for PG&E: balancing safety, reliability”. PG&E is facing lawsuits and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of voluntary manslaughter in a 2018 blaze that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise. Consequently, PG&E is taking a zero-tolerance approach to “arcing,” which happens when an electric current along the line is interrupted and jumps through the air, releasing sparks. To prevent arcing, lines now shut down using distribution reclosers at the first sign of interrupted power. There is a connection between extreme drought, wildfires, and cyber threats. The more operations that occur with the reclosers, the higher the possibility of arcing causing sparks resulting in fires. However, when protection is setup correctly, distribution reclosers can provide reliability and reduce arcing assuming cyber protections are addressed. Unfortunately, distribution reclosers and other distribution devices are not being addressed for cyber security as the NERC CIP cyber security standards continue to consider electric distribution as out-of-scope. There is a need to better understand the cyber vulnerabilities of physical equipment and to develop appropriate policies, procedures, and regulations before there are more devastating wildfires.

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Steve Lindsay's picture
Steve Lindsay on Oct 19, 2021

Joe, good points in this article.  I have had several utility cyber people tell me one of their big worries is that a distribution level component - such as a recloser controller - becomes compromised and the attacker is then able to work their way to higher voltage targets.  

Out of curiosity, what steps do you consider to be essential to protecting recloser controllers as well as other IEDs on the distribution system?

Thanks,

Steve

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