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April 2012

AMI networks: PKI security considerations

The past year has seen several security incidents involving root certificate authorities, the organizations underpinning much of the security across modern data networks via their use of public key infrastructure (PKI) and digital certificates. The incidents, while limited in scope, reveal a weakness in PKI security: The fundamental complexity in guaranteeing the integrity of all aspects of the provisioning and deployment process, from protecting the root and intermediate certificates, to ensuring the privacy of the keys that guarantee their authenticity. The rollout of PKI components in emerging smart grid and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology introduces a new class of risk to this formerly manually managed infrastructure. A breach of an AMI network’s PKI could result in the compromise of an electric utility’s entire distribution network, with cascading impact to connected transmission and generation assets. This risk is compounded when the utility does not manage the PKI components themselves, instead relying ...

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