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Cybersecurity Center of Excellence to develop cybersecurity best practices for utilities

Hacking
Credit: Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Center will be led by the New York Power Authority and Siemens Energy

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Siemens Energy announced a new collaboration to develop the Center of Excellence, an industrial cybersecurity monitoring, research and innovation center that will focus on detecting and defending against cyberattacks on NYPA’s infrastructure.

NYPA’s Board of Trustees approved the creation of the cybersecurity center this week.

NYPA is the largest state public power organization in the nation, with more than 80% of the electricity produced being clean, renewable hydropower. The utility operates 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines; therefore, cybersecurity is a key factor to keep the infrastructure running smoothly.

NYPA’s Advanced Grid Laboratory for Energy (AGILe) and Siemens Energy, Inc. will also identify gaps in market ready solutions and establish test bed and demonstration pilots using Siemens Energy, Inc. technologies and processes. This partnership is the first step in bringing together a coalition of the public sector and private industry to identify new and existing cyber threats, adopt new technologies to protect digital infrastructure and close the industry’s talent-gap.

A joint study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and Siemens Energy, Inc., that surveyed global energy executives on a wide range of threats, vulnerabilities, and strategies required to protect oil and gas assets, found that the threat of cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure is worsening. The study found that 67% of respondents believe the risk level to industrial control systems has substantially increased due to cyber threats. Meanwhile, 61% of respondents said their organization’s industrial control systems protection and security was not adequate.

Today, operational technology (OT) assets in the field are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, as the majority of critical infrastructure was engineered before the widespread digitization of industrial control systems. The Center aims to take digitization into account while researching and developing new systems.

“As we digitize every aspect of our generation and transmission operations, we need to be sure that our cybersecurity program is ironclad,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO. “This venture with Siemens enables both parties to bring their best thinking and experience to the table as we together test and develop state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions that meet our requirements and protect our assets now and well into the future.”

Kenneth Carnes, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer at NYPA, said, “Investing now in developing next-generation tools and techniques will reduce risks to enterprise-wide critical infrastructure and protect ratepayers and citizens against costly security breaches in the future.”

“Utilities and energy companies often lack the technical means and expertise needed to detect and mitigate cyberthreats in an increasingly digitized and interconnected operating environment,” said Leo Simonovich, Head of Industrial Cybersecurity at Siemens Energy, Inc. “To stay ahead of attackers and fully realize a new energy ecosystem based on digital technologies, we must deploy stronger cybersecurity solutions that are capable of defending critical infrastructure against increasingly sophisticated attacks.”