Addressing the Energy Industry’s Biggest Challenges with PIAM
Organizations in the energy industry face a number of potential threats and risks, and addressing them often poses significant challenges. Many of these entities are responsible for operating and monitoring multiple facilities in several locations, which are often in remote areas. Additionally, security infrastructure often consists of disparate systems, and the potential for insider incidents has become a major risk for energy companies. Further complicating these already significant obstacles is the fact that manual processes are still employed for identity management and vital auditing tasks necessary for demonstrating compliance with NERC CIP and other government regulations.
While these factors certainly make it difficult for individual energy companies to operate as securely and efficiently as possible, the larger issue is that they combine to put the nation’s energy infrastructure itself at risk.
To address these threats, Physical Identity and Access Management (PIAM) solutions offer energy companies the ability to overcome their biggest challenges with four main functions and capabilities, which are outlined below.
By definition, disparate systems are those that are incapable of working together in an integrated environment, making it necessary for each system to be managed individually. For organizations with these types of systems in place, this creates tremendous inefficiencies, especially when there are multiple sites to be secured and monitored. But these inefficiencies pale in comparison to the security risks disparate systems create.
PIAM solutions allow organizations to close these security loopholes by unifying identities across multiple locations, systems, credentials and devices into a single comprehensive profile. Information associated with each individual, whether an employee or contractor, is stored in a central database, creating consistency across an entire organization and enabling more effective and efficient identity and access control management.
Unification helps reduce costs by allowing organizations to use their existing physical security systems rather than replacing them at substantial cost. Additional savings are realized through accelerated productivity and operational efficiencies, while PIAM also offers the scalability and adaptability needed to keep in step with future regulatory, industry and economic changes.
Enforcing internal and external rules and regulations is essential to increasing security, streamlining operations and ensuring regulatory compliance. PIAM utilizes workflows to ensure that each identity has the right access to the right area for the right reason at the right time. By digitizing policies that reflect these rules and regulations, utilities are able to systematically secure areas and assets efficiently while maintaining compliance with governmental and internal policies.
PIAM ensures real-time updates across all security systems, applications and locations. Virtually unlimited scalability of these solutions also allows organizations to alter, define and implement policies across multiple systems in real time.
To address the human element of security and compliance, many PIAMs include built-in training modules that can be used to send information and/or training materials to cardholders who have access to critical assets, with the requirement that they confirm they understand and are complying with policies.
Many PIAM solutions include predictive analysis capabilities, which enable security departments to take a proactive approach to incident prevention. By comparing live security data points, such as badge uses, with established norms, PIAMs can detect anomalies that may indicate potential threats, including from insiders. These indicators of compromise (IoC) may include an individual using a credential at unusual time or attempting to access unauthorized areas.
When detected, IoCs generate alerts to allow security departments in real time to proactively take any necessary action to keep potential risks from unfolding. In many cases, security staff are able to prevent an incident from occurring in the first place, significantly increasing security and addressing the growing problem of insider threat.
Complying with the complex, ever-changing regulations governing energy providers can be a daunting task that requires demanding audit and reporting requirements. Unfortunately, these important tasks are often performed using costly, time-consuming and error-prone manual processes. However, non-compliance is not an option, as the potential cost and penalties are not acceptable.
PIAMs use automation to enable efficient auditing of all systems and locations with the robust reporting capabilities needed to demonstrate compliance. For example, PIAMs use information from related systems to automatically revoke an identity’s access privileges in real time upon termination in accordance with CIP 004 R4.2.
Rather than rely on people to collect and report this information, PIAMs allow organizations to generate compliance reports with the click of a button – significantly reducing regulatory reporting costs.
These advanced capabilities of PIAMs allow energy providers to overcome their greatest challenges with identity and access management. By tying together disparate systems with workflows, policies, automation and predictive analysis, PIAM deliver cost savings and streamline operations. Thus PIAMs allow organizations to better manage security and ensure compliance with internal and government regulations, which benefits not only the organization itself – but also our energy infrastructure as a whole.