Today’s modern and interconnected world demands a secure and reliable operation for infrastructure like power grids. It helps greatly in the smooth functioning of society. As the world becomes increasingly dependent on various digital systems and technologies, It is becoming more crucial for every nation individually to protect its main assets from various cyber threats.
This is where the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC-CIP) comes into play. NERC-CIP is a set of a few important standards whose main purpose is to safeguard these critical infrastructures in the North American region.
In this article, we will discuss what NERC-CIP is, its purpose, and how it contributes to safeguarding vital infrastructure.
What Is NERC-CIP and How Does It Work?
The history of NERC-CIP dates back to 1968 when it was created in the electric industry to create rules and regulations to control bulk power or energy transmission. NERC-CIP, which stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation, comprises a set of cybersecurity standards that apply to the Bulk Power Systems (BPS) in Canada, the United States, and parts of Mexico.
These NERC-CIP standards focus on a wide range of requirements that can directly address the various methods of countering cyber security threats. This includes the protection of these main cyber assets, personal training, controls of security management, response plan for an incident, and the continuous improvement of these practices.
The need for these NERC-CIP standards arose from the increasing threat of cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure. Otherwise, it could lead to a huge concern or severe incident towards public safety, national security, and economic stability.
How Does the NERC-CIP Work to Ensure the Safety of Critical Infrastructure?
The following are the key steps NERC-CIP undertakes to safeguard critical infrastructure:
Identification of Critical Assets
For NERC-CIP, the first step starts with the identification of Critical Cyber Assets (CCAs) or infrastructure that it needs to safeguard the Bulk Power Systems (BPS). Since these assets are vital, their smooth functionality is equally important, therefore, their protection matters a lot. Otherwise, it can jeopardize the operations of power grids if compromised. Moreover, these CCAs include various communication networks, control systems, data centers, and other components that are crucial for the smooth functionality of a grid station.
Categorize the System and Assets
The next step after the identification of Critical Cyber Assets would be their categorization which is based on how they can impact the BPS. Through NERC-CIP compliance, you can categorize these assets into various impact levels. This can help you to determine which assets are the most crucial ones and need more attention due to their higher impact level.
Setting Up Security Controls
For the protection of security assets efficiently, the NERC-CIP needs different ways and methods to implement security control. This includes both procedure-based and technical measures. The procedure-based measures cover the response plan against incident or personnel training, whereas the technical measures cover access controls, encryptions, and firewalls. All these measures help greatly in setting up security controls for effective Cyber security threat management results.
Auditing and Compliance
All entities responsible for the operation and maintenance of BPS must comply with NERC-CIP standards. That is why there are periodical audits conducted to make sure that all concerned bodies are following the security controls with proper and necessary documents alongside. Those failing to do it can end up facing different penalties and sanctions.
Reporting Any Incidents and Their Response
In case there is a Cyber security incident, the NERC-CIP will require the concerned bodies to report its details to the concerned authorities. Also, these concerned bodies have strong plans with them to face and mitigate any effects of cyber security threats on time.
Continuously Adapting and Improving
In today’s modern time, everything keeps on evolving with time to become advanced and stronger. Similarly, the Cyber security threats also evolve to become stronger and more difficult to deal with from time to time.
Therefore, this demands continuous adaptation and improvement in practices to counter these cyber security threats. As a result, all concerned bodies remain vigilant, keep updating their security measures and continue to learn from their past experiences for the best resilience and encounter tactics.
Advantages of NERC-CIP
Below are a few advantages of NERC-CIP for North American Power and Electric grids. All of these advantages highlight the importance of NERC-CIP in different ways:
- Cyberattacks can have catastrophic effects on critical infrastructure assets. NERC-CIP does its best to prevent them and save through various severe losses by implementing various cyber security standards and measures to increase the resilience of power grids.
- NERC-CIP also protects national security because these entire electric utility sectors play an important role in a nation’s national security. Hence, protecting them means directly protecting a nation’s security which otherwise can cause various catastrophic incidents.
- NERC-CIP also helps in economic stability as a blackout or an outage caused due to a cyber-attack can cause havoc on national infrastructure. As a result, the well-being of people may be compromised, leading to significant economic disruption.
- NERC-CIP can also gain public confidence and trust. Since the public’s trust and confidence greatly lies in a continuous supply of electric power supply, disruption can be a loss. NERC-CIP protects power grids to ensure stable and continuous supply to gain the public’s confidence in them.
The NERC-CIP plays a vital role in a nation’s overall well-being in different ways as it protects its vital component which is the power supply from grids. It can ensure the protection and security of critical infrastructure, especially the power sector, in the North American region. With robust cybersecurity standards, the identification of critical infrastructure assets, and strict compliance, NERC-CIP serves as a robust line of defense against various cybersecurity threats and attacks.
Also, since the cyber security threat also keeps on evolving from time to time due to advancements in modern technology, so does the NERC-CIP. NERC-CIP does not ignore this important factor and works continuously on its various improvement parameters for a better safeguarding approach. In summary, the crucial role NERC-CIP plays in safeguarding critical infrastructure is undeniable.