NERC promotes information sharing with proposed cybersecurity program

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced plans for a new Cybersecurity Risk Information Program (CRISP).  NERC outlined the initiative in their 2015 proposed budget as a way to enhance cybersecurity protection through shared resourced and improved communications by participants.  As a method to heighten the security of critical infrastructure in the electric industry, CRISP will facilitate timely information sharing that will allow critical infrastructure owners and operators to share data as they strive to mitigate cyber threats.

In the proposed plan, CRISP is a voluntary program and will be operated by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who will analyze data sent to them by Information Sharing Devices (ISD’s) that will be installed on participant’s networks to send encrypted data to CRISP for analysis.  In addition to ISD’s, CRISP will leverage two other technologies to obtain and transfer data; Cyber Fed Model (CFM) software and Contested Operations Network for Reporting Detection (CONRAD). This data will enable trends and correlations to be organized in order to influence the overall goals of the program.  Under the current proposed plan, the Electricity Sector Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ES-ISAC) will be the program manager responsible for performing agreed upon procedures to participating electric utilities.

According to NERC, CRISP has two differentiators from other commercially available cyber risk monitoring services. The first is the intent and ability to integrate other cyber related threat information provided through governmental sources with the cyber threat information gathered from the ISDs installed at the participant’s sites. Second is the ability of the program to look across organizations within the electricity subsector, identifying correlation and trends.

Looking through the many acronyms that comprise this proposed program, the overall intent will allow owners and operators of electricity assets to share information in an effort to protect critical resources.  The CRISP program is another example of how systems and stakeholders must adapt to continue to protect their assets against threats in order to provide safe and reliable service to customers. 

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