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Cyber Security Summer School: Lessons for the Modern Grid

June 20, 2011 - 4:34pm

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Since long before the dawn of the “information age,” people have separated information that is safe to share from information that is private. Firewalls, virus protection software and message encryption tools are the vault doors, secret police and ciphers of their time.

When we think of cyber security, some people focus on ensuring the confidentiality of our information first, but computer systems do more than store and share information. They help control our traffic lights, trains and specifically, our electric grid -- tasks for which continuous function is the primary concern. Protecting control systems on the grid from cyber attack requires a completely different approach to cyber security than information technology systems.

Since 2009, the Energy Department has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to support the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) project, a university-based project performing cutting-edge research to improve the way electric infrastructure is built, increasing the security and reliability of the grid.

Last week, professionals from industry, researchers and graduate students gathered outside of Chicago for TCIPG’s second annual Cyber Security for Smart Energy Systems Summer School. The school provides attendees with background knowledge both in cyber security and in the traditional generation, transmission and distribution of electric power. Through industry case studies and examples from current research, students learned how the electric grid is developing into a smarter system, and explored the intersection of electrical energy systems and cyber security. The sessions were led by experts from industry,academia and government, providing students with real-world knowledge of topics ranging from smart grid and communications protocols to secure network architectures.

It will take more than knowledge of information technology to design and implement effective cyber security solutions for the modern grid. Summer school attendees left with the practical understanding of the connection between power systems and computer science required to secure a clean, reliable energy future.

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