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Digital Trust for
Smart Electric Grids

What are the main risks for smart grid infrastructures?

The energy infrastructure, in need of grid modernization, is a high value target for cyber warfare. The major risks to the energy grid stem from five factors. The first factor is physical access to heavily instrumented systems with no protection points on the board at manufacture, and the large attack surface due to the number of access points. The second factor is the manipulation of demand attacks from appliances that can leverage botnets to manipulate the power demand in the grid, to trigger local power outages and potentially large-scale blackouts. The third factor is the targeting of unprotected supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and other industrial control system (ICS) software. The fourth factor is that intrusion detection systems are tuned down to reduce the number of false positive alerts, to the point that it becomes useless. The fifth factor is that unlike the IT approach of quarantining infected user workstations (endpoints) with virtual LAN (VLAN) based network segmentation, power generation and distribution systems in OT are live and quarantining devices in an interconnected system disrupts service and causes undesirable outage. Reactive approaches based on network-based anomaly detection and deep-packet inspection of application protocols will be challenged eventually by the onset of encrypted network traffic (without application reengineering) in the years ahead.

How do you combat cyber risk for smart electric grids?

A strong strategy requires the following actions:

  • Securing the integrity of signaling between systems
  • Managing the digital secrets that offer such security countermeasures—passwords and keys
  • Rotating the digital secrets using X.509 certificates for trusted delivery as a mitigation strategy for recovery on compromise
  • Tamper-resistant content delivery through the supply chain
  • Remote device recovery on compromise with trusted software and configuration updates, and automated key renewal
  • Embedded network access controls for perimeter-less defense
  • Auditability for visibility and measurement of compliance posture—to avoid punitive fines for violations (e.g. NERC-CIP)

What is the recommended workflow for
securing Smart Electric Grid Infrastructure?

Smart Grid Infographic

What industry cybersecurity standards need to be met for Smart Grids?

Industrial automation manufacturers and critical electric utilities must ensure compliance with cybersecurity standards such as NIST 800-53, Revision 4, IEC 62443-3-3, and FIPS 140-3. Furthermore, electric utilities must comply with additional standards such as NERC CIP 003. Keeping up with these standards as well as emerging standards from the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and Industrie 4.0 is challenging.

Power Lines
Electric Grid Stat

What are the top Smart Grid security threats?

Perimeter-based defenses and threat detection technologies are not enough to defend against modern cyber attacks. Our electric grids are under attack by nation states. Many legacy programmable logic controllers (PLCs), intelligent edge devices (IEDs), remote terminal units (RTUs), controllers, gateways, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) edge devices are vulnerable due to a lack of basic cryptographic controls such as: multi-factor authentication, secure boot, secure update, and secure, encrypted communications.

How does DigiCert + Mocana deliver Smart Grid Digital Trust?

Used by more than 200 OEMs to protect more than 100 million devices.

Mocana’s end-to-end cybersecurity system is a FIPS 140-3 validated embedded cybersecurity software solution that ensures device trustworthiness and secure communications by giving industrial automation manufacturers. With solutions for new builds and legacy, brownfield upgrades, Mocana provides electric utilities and OEMs with an easy way to harden new or legacy brownfield RTUs, IEDs, and controllers with multi-factor authentication and trust chaining, as well as secure boot to validate the firmware, OS and applications.

Electric Power Grids Present Many Surfaces for Attack

Smart Grid Diagram

Learn more about DigiCert + Mocana solutions


Control center for managing devices in the field


Plug-and-play on-device clients that secure operations


SDK that simplifies business application development

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