Safe the ‘final foot’ in distribution automation

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Have you ever ever seen the small steel bins connected to utility poles? In the event you’re like most individuals, you in all probability haven’t paid a lot consideration to those cupboards. For Cisco and our companion, SEL, these utility cupboards introduced a possibility for innovation.

Inside every steel field are two gadgets: a recloser management, which mitigates the hazards of unusually excessive electrical currents, and a router, which makes use of mobile service and a digital personal community (VPN) to hyperlink the recloser management to the utilities’ wide-area community (WAN). The VPN protects grid communications between the bins and the management middle.

However there may be nonetheless a vulnerability inside every field. Cisco and SEL have joined forces to safe what is sort of actually the “final foot” in distribution automation.

Cisco and SEL’s resolution for the ‘final foot’ downside

Although hardened for bodily safety, utility bins will not be not possible to breach. Breaking into one yields entry to the recloser management, the router, and the community cable – often about one foot – that connects the 2 items of {hardware}.

At present, these gadgets talk with clear textual content, so essential communications may be learn by anybody with the technical know-how to intercept them. In different phrases, this “final foot” represents a possible vulnerability as an entry level to wreck or assume management of the recloser. That would result in undesirable penalties – starting from nuisance upkeep duties to energy grid disruption.

Collectively, Cisco and SEL have created the primary resolution for encrypting the community site visitors that travels the brief however vital distance between an SEL-651R/RA recloser controls and a Cisco Catalyst IR1101 Rugged Router.

We constructed this resolution utilizing IEEE 802.1AE Media Entry Management Safety (MACsec) and the MACsec Key Settlement (MKA) portion of 802.1X Port-Primarily based Community Entry Management. We selected MACsec as a result of it’s a mature, confirmed, and open normal. It’s additionally steady, having undergone few updates since its publication in 2006 but it nonetheless delivers robust encryption right this moment.

Making use of this normal on Cisco and SEL {hardware}, it turns into attainable to safe recloser communications with out investing in exterior gadgets. The answer will probably be accessible on the finish of 2022, enabling utilities to start upgrading their distribution automation atmosphere.

Coordinating actions throughout purposeful teams throughout the utility may be extraordinarily tough. With that in thoughts, we designed the answer to be carried out in two phases. The primary section entails a truck roll to bodily replace every location as required. The second section entails updating the configuration and may be dealt with remotely and with none disruption of service to the grid.

Going the additional mile for the ‘final foot’

As safety threats and dangers to utilities proceed to extend, this standards-based resolution from Cisco and SEL represents a vitally essential software for hardening vital infrastructure. We invite you to dive deeper into the answer by studying Securing the ‘Final Foot’ in Distribution Automation, a white paper Cisco and SEL printed throughout DistribuTECH.

To discover how this resolution may also help you, contact us.

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