Itron partners with lab to address smart grid security

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash., June 18, 2009 — Itron Inc. announced several new developments in smart grid security.

The metering, data collection and utility software firm has established a cooperative research and development agreement with Idaho National Laboratory, an applied engineering national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) missions in nuclear and energy research, science and national defense.

The partnership establishes a DOE cooperative project to assess and develop concepts to reduce vulnerabilities associated with smart metering and ensure the overall security needs of the smart grid. The project is currently underway. Its scope includes the enhanced security architecture of OpenWay, Itron’s smart metering solution, as well as its 2.4GZ OpenWay Gas Module, and other home area network devices.

“It’s been suggested that utilities should demand that their suppliers adopt secure development practices, and require them to undergo third-party security auditing. Itron is voluntarily participating in security testing and setting an example of responsibility that all vendors should follow,” said Lynne Ellyn, DTE Energy senior vice president and chief information officer. The Michigan-based diversified energy company is currently deploying a number of OpenWay smart meters.

Itron has worked diligently to ensure encryption at the hardware level in OpenWay, as well as making it impossible to decode the metering device’s communications. This functionality was part of Itron’s February release of an enhanced security version of its OpenWay Collection Engine. Based on elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), a series of meter communication encryption and key management appliances are now being utilized in OpenWay to secure end-to-end network messages from the OpenWay Collection Engine down to the OpenWay CENTRON meter.

Itron holds the top spot for contracted market share for advanced meters in North America. All of its larger customers have enhanced security as part of their deployments including San Diego Gas & Electric (deploying 2.3 million meters), Houston-based CenterPoint Energy (deploying 2.4 million meters), Southern California Edison (deploying 5.3 million smart meters), and DTE Energy.

Additionally, Itron continues to partner with Certicom and Industrial Defender to achieve an unmatched level of smart grid security. Itron is using Certicom’s AMI 7000 appliances for secure network messaging. Industrial Defender’s 300B security event monitor is utilized by OpenWay to manage, maintain and report on aggregated data from the OpenWay system.

Itron is also furthering its standards work with the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), recently reaffirming the importance of embracing interoperability standards as part of NIST smart grid workshops. Once defined, standards generated by the NIST initiative, in conjunction with the use of Internet protocol, American National Standards Institute C12.22, ZigBee Smart Energy, and other applicable standards, will ensure full implementation of the vision for smart grid. Work also continues with the AMI-SEC task force, as Itron helps to produce technical specifications for use by utilities to assess and procure security-related functionality.

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