The May 8 ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline company not only shut down operations across one of the nation’s most important 5,500-mile energy infrastructures but it exposed a major weakness in the national cybersecurity strategy that has been 20 years in the making: Critical infrastructure cybersecurity must adopt a risk-led security strategy backed by a real-time decision and operational support system.
Speculation remains rampant as to what systems the ransomware attack actually impacted. But I caught up with one of the nation’s top experts on industrial control systems cybersecurity to help us separate fact from fiction and to get a better grasp of the cyber risk management challenge that faces the owners and operators of these critical infrastructures.
Joe Weiss is the former manager of the enterprise infrastructure security program at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). But since that time he not only literally wrote the book on control system cybersecurity, but he’s gone on to consult with the White House and NIST on government efforts to develop secure electronic process control systems for critical infrastructure.
Mr. Weiss was involved in the development of, and participated in, the April 2002 White House Conference on CIP – “Developing Secure Digital/Electronic Process Control Systems for the Nation’s Critical Infrastructures.” He was an invited speaker at the NIST/NSA Information Security Summit. He has provided oral and written testimony to three House subcommittees, one Senate Committee, and a formal statement for the record to another House Committee. He has also responded to numerous Government Accountability Office (GAO) information requests on cybersecurity and Smart Grid issues. He has published over 60 papers on instrumentation, controls, and diagnostics including a chapter on cybersecurity for Electric Power Substations Engineering and the book Protecting Industrial Control Systems from Electronic Threats (ISBN 978-1-60650-197-9). He was also a co-author of Cyber Security Policy Guidebook (ISBN 978-1-1180-2780-6).