The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) creates regulations for businesses involved in critical power infrastructure under the guidance and approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A few of these, the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards, protect the most important links in the chain and are enforced under penalty of heavy fines for non-compliance. Many of the CIP standards cover cybersecurity, as much of the nation’s infrastructure is now digital. To prove compliance with CIP standards, companies must have a system of record that can be shown to auditors to prove they have enacted the required security measures to protect their cyber assets.
The NERC CIP v5 standards will be enforced beginning in July of this year, but version 6 is already on the horizon. Previously, we examined the differences between v3 and v5, and we saw how the CIPs related to cybersecurity were evolving. This pattern continues in v6, with changes coming to some of the cyber CIPs and the addition of standards regarding “transient cyber assets and removable media,” but the major changes in v6 have to do with scope-- which facilities are required to comply, and at what level they must comply: low, medium or high impact. We’ll examine some of the differences coming up in CIPv6 and what they will mean for the industry.
While it’s not certain that society would become a zombie apocalypse overnight if the power grids failed, it is hard to imagine how any aspect of everyday life would continue in the event of a vast, extended electrical outage. Part of what makes electrical infrastructure resilient against these types of events are the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) regulatory standards, especially the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards, which provide detailed guidelines for both physical and cyber security. The CIP standards evolve along with the available technology and known threats, so they are versioned to provide structured documentation and protocols for companies to move from one iteration of the standards to the next. But the jump from version 3 to version 5 involves many new requirements, so we'll look at some of the differences between the two and what they mean for businesses in the industry.