New cyber security tool suite

U.S. Department of Energy demonstrates tools to provide situational awareness of networks and control systems.


Idaho National Laboratory recently demonstrated a suite of cyber security tools that provides situational awareness of networks and control systems. Such awareness enables an energy utility to extend its safeguards protecting systems from cyber attack.

"We're trying to help people better understand their computer networks so they can better protect them," said Robert Erbes, the INL cyber security researcher leading the demonstration. Using a human analogy, the demonstration compared a utility's computer networks to the body's central nervous system. They send critical information throughout the company, enable communication between diverse elements, and connect to supervisory data and control systems that help run the company's physical equipment.

DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability (DOE-OE) provides funding to help improve the cyber security of the nation's control systems. Two years ago, the office's Cyber Security for Energy Delivery Systems program funded a project at INL to develop a suite of tools to provide improved overall situation awareness of control and sensor network systems. The interoperative tool suite consists of applications ranging from specific concrete, implementable ideas, to academic-based research demonstrations.

Among the tools being demonstrated is the Sophia situational awareness software. It passively observes network communications, providing both real-time and historical records of those communications. Sophia can also be configured to automatically detect unusual activity that may present a security concern. Like the other tools INL is demonstrating, it provides all of its information for human operators to evaluate.

"The INL research team is aiming to provide situational awareness so the human can make the decision about how to respond or react," said Erbes.

The other tools that are part of the interoperability demonstration this week are Intelligent Cyber Sensor, Data Fusion, and the Net Access Policy Tool (NetAPT), which was developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. The INL project team also will be demonstrating five additional cyber security research projects.

INL is one of the DOE's 10 multiprogram national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE's strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science, and environment. INL is the nation's leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

Find INL news and feature stories at Follow @INL on Twitter or visit its Facebook page at

Edited by Peter Welander,

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