IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - 101

To maintain continuous computer operation,
system operators must understand vulnerabilities
relevant to their devices.
There must also be a defined process to verify the status of
cyberequipment after a physical break in at a substation-a
method to review all the set points, firmware versions, and firewall rules. This procedure would accompany physical checks
and repairs to substation physical equipment after a breach to
certify that the substation is ready to resume normal operations.

Secure Implementation
of CIM Exchanges
The CIM standards provide the semantic definitions and relationships (e.g., metadata) that allow instances of the metadata
objects and relationships to be created in UML. To establish an
interoperable information exchange, both the metadata definitions and instances need to be exchanged and agreed upon
by the exchanging entities. As an example, Figure 6 shows a
subset of the UML regarding a power transformer. The UML
defines that a power transformer is to be contained in a substation and can have a location and a specific serial number.
These definitions represent what could be exchanged but
do not state what specific data is exchanged. The specific
information exchanged would contain the actual location,
substation, and serial number for a particular power transformer. The metadata does not typically contain any significant information that requires cybersecurity protection
(e.g., specific power transformer information). Therefore, the
metadata files do not require cybersecurity protection during
exchange, which is typically done through a variety of outof-band file transfer mechanisms.
The standardization of how instance information is
exchanged, known as serialization standardization, is also
defined by the standards. There are two prevalent exchange serialization techniques used within CIM information exchanges:
files and XSD-based messages. Similar to the metadata, these
serialization standards define how to transfer information but
do not define the specific instance information (e.g., a power
transformer is installed in substation A). As with the metadata,
the standardized serialization definitions do not require cybersecurity protection and thus are transferred using a variety of
out-of-band file transfer mechanisms.
The actual exchange technique (e.g., file transfer or
XSD messages) varies based upon the business application
domain in which the exchange is taking place. Files are
typically moved, via FTP or other file transfer mechanisms,
from the entity that stores the file (e.g., server) to a particular
client requesting the file transfer (e.g., client) in a point-topoint fashion. Messages can be point to point (e.g., the message payload is sent to a particular destination) or point to
january/february 2016

multipoint (e.g., the message payload is sent to multiple destinations) (see Figure 7). The two typical implementations of
point-to-multipoint exchanges are shown in Figure 3.
Methodology 1 shows a single application request being
converted by a messaging engine (provider) into a sequence of
two individual messages. Since the provider is part of the business application, this methodology creates two point-to-point
exchanges. Methodology 2 utilizes the capabilities provided by
other entities on the network path to deliver the single message
produced by the messaging engine to multiple endpoints. Since
the same message is delivered to multiple endpoints, this would
be considered multicast communication where the business
applications are in the same security group. However, since the
CIM message transfers are web service or XSD based, network
multicasting is typically provided through an intervening enterprise service bus (ESB), as shown in Figure 8.
ESBs provide two primary network services:
✔ Message routing based upon message inspection: A
message's ESB delivery destination(s) is typically
determined through inspection of the message header.
However, sometimes it is determined through inspection of the contents of the message payload.
✔ Message transformation: In many situations, the message produced by one application is not consumable,
or understandable, by the destination applications. An
ESB typically has the capability to transform messages from one set of information into another format.
The new message is then delivered to the applications
that need the transformed message content. This transformation capability represents a message adapter that
is placed within the exchange communication path.
As the threats regarding cybersecurity evolve, so do
the approaches to counter the evolving threats. End-to-end
security is an important issue with large component-based
systems. While encrypted tunnels can provide end-to-end
security, when mixed with point-to-multipoint solutions,
such as an ESB, a closer look is required.
Figure 8 shows that end-to-end confidentiality (e.g., between
business application 1 and applications 2 and 3) due to the need
to perform message transformation. The use of an ESB transformation adapter inherently does not allow a cohesive end-to-end
security tunnel; to perform the transformation, the encryption
providing confidentiality would need to be terminated at the
transforming adapter. The adapter would then transform the
message and potentially re-encrypt and re-sign the new messages (e.g., message 2 and message 3). Although there is trust
established between application 1 and the ESB, the fact that the
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - Cover1
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - Cover3
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