Observations from the Distributech Conference

I have been attending and participating in the Distributech Conference for many years and attended this year’s Conference in San Diego Wednesday and Thursday. I had an opportunity to “walk the floor” and had several observations I would like to share:
- My very unofficial observation was that Distributech was well attended by vendors and utilities.
- There was surprise by many people that I was at Distributech because of the scheduling conflict with SANS. There was also consternation that these two conferences would be scheduled at the same time as it forced people to make a choice.
- Security is becoming more evident (though not ubiquitous) in the vendor displays and session presentations particularly with respect to the NERC CIPs. Unfortunately, too many people are equating NERC CIP compliance to security, at least publicly. Additionally, there were still many vendors, particularly with field equipment, who have not addressed security or who have done so without an appropriate understanding. One example was the backdoor that several vendors had designed into their products, even though they included “security” as part of their design.
- There was a major focus on AMI and Smart Grid –they are not the same. The AMI vendors specifically mentioned security. Smart Grid applications such as Distribution Automation had little security. These systems will communicate with each other which means security is still an issue.

Joe Weiss