Sensus to Add IBM's Encryption and Key Management Into its FlexNet Advanced Metering Infrastructure

  • Posted on: 6 July 2011
  • By: chw staff

Sensus is incorporating encryption and key management technologies from IBM into its FlexNet Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system in an effort to advance data security as a critical component of the smart grid. The initiative will further enhance the existing security capabilities of the Sensus network infrastructure.

Sensus will integrate IBM's asymmetric encryption and enhanced key management technologies into its FlexNet communications system for electric, gas and water utility smart endpoints, including meters and distribution automation devices. Specifically, Sensus will use the IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM) software to centralize and automate the encryption key management process for all network deployments. Further, the technology integration will include NSA Suite B standards compliant cryptographic logic from IBM in all newer generation devices.

"We have to look at security as a moving target," said Matt Zafuto, vice president of strategic alliances at Sensus. "In the same way that we continually update a personal computer against new viruses, we have to be constantly vigilant of new threats against critical infrastructures, such as utility networks."

IBM will implement an asymmetric key based solution using elliptic curve cryptography (ECC). In addition to the strong confidentiality and integrity of the existing encryption protocol, Sensus FlexNet customers will get the added benefit of digital signatures and non-repudiation. The TKLM integration will also provide a simple, user friendly key locker interface that will enable utilities to securely manage the encryption keys.

"Energy and utility providers are continually looking for ways to better maintain the stability and security of their existing systems so they can better service customers and maintain operational efficiency," said Doug Scheller, Global IUN Smart Metering Solution Leader, Energy and Utilities Industry, IBM. "By working with Sensus, we are able to introduce technologies such as encryption and key management into the smart grid market, to ensure the communication between smart meters and utilities is reliable, secure and uninterrupted."

The inherent security of the FCC-licensed wireless spectrum network and strong encryption tools currently employed by Sensus offers robust protection levels. The company has also participated in several third-party certification processes for network integrity and in early 2011, became the first AMI vendor to achieve both Achilles Communication and Practices Certifications for overall cyber security through industrial testing and certification firm, Wurldtech Security Technologies.

According to Zafuto, the IBM products will ensure a much higher degree of safety from any future threats. "By combining the technological strengths of both Sensus and IBM, we can produce the level of security our customers require and help drive industry compliance with the most rigorous security standards and guidelines like the NIST IR 7628," added Zafuto.

Sensus expects to have the new IBM encryption and key management functionality available to customers by early 2012.