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Cybersecurity: Secure Utilities Start with Secure Networks

By Mike Prescher, Senior Network and Cybersecurity Architect, Black & Veatch

Most utility leaders know that a high-speed, reliable data network is critical to smart cities and smart utility programs. However, most don’t fully appreciate that their network’s architecture is part of an essential foundation for building effective cybersecurity infrastructure, and in turn, effective cybersecurity programs.

As utilities digitize their critical infrastructure with advanced technology applications, they are adding more IP gateways and other data delivery elements to their networks, making them more susceptible to common types of attacks than they have been in the past. Designing and building in cybersecurity measures as these upgrades are made is as practical as it is necessary.

Standards-based data network architectures, such as those from recognized standards organizations – including NIST, IEEE and IETF (National Institute of Standards & Technology, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Internet Engineering Task Force) – enable organizations to implement industry safeguards designed to fit within a greater framework of protection.

Whether these recommended architectures and implementation practices are enabled logically or physically, such best practice approaches provide more predictable and controllable attack surfaces that utilities must monitor and defend.

 

Building in Security

Regardless of the type of network being built, such as packet wired, wireless or even fiber transport, every attribute of the network has a cybersecurity consideration. As such, every tier, every module within a tier, and where the various elements interconnect, all require that cybersecurity be considered.

Black & Veatch approaches network architecture as integration between cybersecurity and network design, while executing the design based on industry standards to achieve maximum performance, cost efficiency and ease of support. We work directly with clients through planning, assessment, design and deployment to ensure solutions meet business and operational needs. Our standards-based designs help promote “soft” attributes, such as technical staff knowledge sharing. We confidently turn over operation of new network infrastructure to our customers knowing they have been an integral part of the network development process and are ready to effectively operate, monitor and sustain new network infrastructure.

Plan Now for Future Needs

Many utilities are considering expanding, replacing or building new networks to accommodate strategic initiatives. For water and gas utilities, this could be the roll out of advanced metering infrastructure. For power utilities, this could be enabling advanced distribution automation capabilities and greater levels of distributed energy resources. Transportation within a smart city context and even mining operations, are rapidly modernizing their infrastructures, enabling more sophisticated application and system integration.

Building or enhancing your data network based upon best practice industry standards while teaming with professionals who know why those standards bring value to the business, provide the most effective approach for modernizing and securing today’s mission-critical networks.

Subject Matter Expert
Mike Prescher: PrescherM@bv.com

Video: Securing Critical Infrastructure

Securing Critical Infrastructure

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