Safe the ‘final foot’ in distribution automation


Have you ever ever observed the small metallic bins hooked up to utility poles? Should you’re like most individuals, you in all probability haven’t paid a lot consideration to those cupboards. For Cisco and our accomplice, SEL, these utility cupboards introduced a chance for innovation.

Inside every metallic field are two units: 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 heart.

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 unattainable to breach. Breaking into one yields entry to the recloser management, the router, and the community cable – normally about one foot – that connects the 2 items of {hardware}.

At the moment, these units talk with clear textual content, so essential communications will 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 break or assume management of the recloser. That might 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 quick however essential 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 customary. It’s additionally secure, having undergone few updates since its publication in 2006 but it nonetheless delivers robust encryption right now.

Making use of this customary on Cisco and SEL {hardware}, it turns into attainable to safe recloser communications with out investing in exterior units. The answer can be out there on the finish of 2022, enabling utilities to start upgrading their distribution automation setting.

Coordinating actions throughout practical teams inside the utility will be extraordinarily tough. With that in thoughts, we designed the answer to be carried out in two phases. The primary part includes a truck roll to bodily replace every location as required. The second part includes updating the configuration and will 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 instrument for hardening essential 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 will help you, contact us.



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