In recent years there has been a significant uptick in physical attacks on substations and grid infrastructure, posing a major threat to the reliability and security of our power grids. These attacks are perpetrated by both insiders and external actors, highlighting the need for a comprehensive and integrated security solution that can detect and prevent these incidents.
Utility providers face several challenges when it comes to securing their infrastructure. One of the main challenges is disjointed manual processes to assign and monitor building access to its most high-risk areas, including generation and transmission. In many cases, utilities rely on hand-tracked authorizations and periodic access reviews, often on massive spreadsheets for CIP compliance. This process is time-consuming and error-prone, lacking real-time visibility into who has access to critical areas.
Another challenge? The lack of immediate access removal for employees or contractors at termination. This means that ex-employees and contractors may still have access to critical infrastructure, leaving it vulnerable to unauthorized access and potential attacks. Additionally, tracking expired NERC CIP trainings and ensuring access is removed instantly to stay in compliance can be difficult and inefficient.
To address these challenges, utilities providers must incorporate solutions that remove the complexity of integration across ERP, GRC, IAM and security applications. This means employing solutions that deliver holistic prevention of fraud, theft and acts of sabotage by identifying and uncovering blended threats that exist across IT applications, Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) and Industrial Controls.
AI rules the SOC
One of the most powerful security technologies to date enables utilities organizations to leverage the systems they already have in place and convert volumes of physical security data into real insights. AI-powered SOC insights allows individuals to quickly detect, respond to and mitigate risk—turning what used to take hours into minutes.
Along with the ability to automatically manage badges and suppress alarms, AI-powered SOC insights helps users quickly uncover insights that need further investigating using data they didn’t even know they had.
Checking every compliance box
Mapping of critical and cyber assets to IT security controls and PACS allows utilities to monitor and manage access to critical areas. Powerful data modeling capabilities bring to light potential compliance violations and control system risks, as well as IT security gaps before a potential NERC violation. Streamlining compliance processes ensures utilities are always in compliance with relevant regulations, like NERC-CIP, NIST SP 800-53, ISO 27000 and SOX.
It’s important to elevate critical business processes around identity and access management/governance in an integrated solution so utilities can manage access to critical areas in the most effective way. The single solution for cross-platform provisioning of access provides a solid pathway to staying CIP compliant with converged physical and logical systems.
Benefits of converged cyber-physical security:
- Streamlining contractor pre-onboarding workflow with background checks.
- Automated building access issuance with role-based access for all employees and contractors.
- Automatic quarterly audits and access revocation for unused or terminated badges.
- Automated NERC CIP training validation for critical area access.
- Asset governance process for metal keys issuance.
- Implementing an automated vehicle permit request and management system.
- Managing visitors for critical sites and enforcing policies.
- Identifying and addressing badge misuse promptly for effective insider threat monitoring.
- AI-powered SOC alarm monitoring with more qualified information and reducing noise.
Reframing security as a true business enabler
When people think of security, they don’t necessarily think ROI. But a good solution should boost just that. Consider, for example, the thousands of contractors that major utilities organizations employ. With an advanced identity access management system, organizations can automatically use security access data to validate time on a site and compare these figures to hours billed by each contractor—saving millions by preventing overbilling.
Streamlining the visitor management experience also creates better business outcomes. Long gone are the days where organizations have to manually check visitors in or spend money on bulky, over-priced kiosks. A mobile visitor management solution automates and simplifies the check-in process, making it easier to manage access to critical areas—and letting visitors breeze in and out of doors with a quick tap.
Digitally Transforming the Employee Badge
The transition to mobile credentials has become increasingly popular as organizations seek to upgrade from traditional physical credentials to a more secure, convenient and environmentally sustainable solution. Mobile credentials can help govern access to remote facilities, with cloud provisioning of temporary badges if a physical badge was lost or forgotten. A cloud-based mobile credential and access platform can also boost productivity and drive down costs—while delivering best-in-class access control experiences.
The ongoing physical attacks on substations and grid infrastructure highlights the need for utilities to implement comprehensive and integrated security solutions that block potential security incidents. These solutions should offer a range of capabilities that can help utilities manage access to critical infrastructure effectively, streamline processes and ensure they maintain compliance with relevant regulations. By leveraging the power of AI and automation, utilities can gain real-time visibility into who has access to critical areas, allowing them to detect and prevent security breaches and keep power grids secure and reliable.
Contact AlertEnterprise to discover how their AI-powered cyber-physical security platform allows organizations to manage employees, contractors and visitors for IT, Physical and OT access so they can stay well ahead of security risk.