Complex market forces and various sets of challenges have converged over the last decade, leading to the rapid adoption of new digital solutions in power plants. The growing use of renewables and the digitization of the grid have put competitive pressure on traditional gas-operated power plants to evolve to be more competitive.

The primary challenges driving this change include:

This second trend is, arguably, the most important.

Power generators are beginning to adopt technologies that enable remote or mobile control procedures to ensure business continuity and optimal staffing flexibility and efficiency. Due to growing uncertainties in plant operations, industrial organizations must build their security stack with the goal of controlling their critical infrastructure from a remote location. Plant managers and technicians need the ability to interface with the plant assets from anywhere, at any time.

Industrial businesses and enterprises must rethink their security stack. Rather than building defenses around the office, organizations must enable:

Today’s most power plants are equipped with firewall products, which have become standard-issue appliances when needing to secure a network. Today’s next-generation firewalls (NGFW) are more powerful and provide multiple functions such as sandboxing, application-level inspection and intrusion prevention. While NGFWs do a great job at these functions, they are not designed for accessing devices remotely, and there are inherent risks for those who have used them for remote access.

Firewalls can encrypt data streams over a virtual private network (VPN) and tunnel critical information through an untrusted network, such as the internet. However, with today’s technology and the high number of tools and information available to threat actors, it is possible to hack the data communication protocols at the endpoint device where these encrypted data streams are terminated and potentially conduct malicious activities to access critical power plant assets.

Additional areas businesses should consider for their remote security include:

As the power industry adapts to the changes presented by a changing workforce and the convergence of IT and OT, remote user access will become even more essential.

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