Thursday, January 24, 2019

What is the purpose of CIP-013?

Lew Folkerth of RF published an article about CIP-013 in December in the RF newsletter, which I wrote about in this post and in this one. In that article, Lew said that the supply chain cyber security risk management plan required by CIP-013 R1.1 needs to demonstrate that it achieves the objective(s) of the standard. And what are they? In his article, Lew repeated the four objectives that FERC had outlined, both in their Order 829 of June 2016 that required NERC to develop a supply chain security standard and in Order 850 of last October, which approved CIP-013. These objectives are

1.                   Software integrity and authenticity;
2.                   Vendor remote access protections;
3.                   Information system planning; and
4.                   Vendor risk management and procurement controls.

However, being very bright (and to prove that’s true, my mother always said I was bright!) and an astute reader, I pointed out that there’s an even simpler statement of CIP-013’s purpose, in Section 3 near the beginning of the standard: “To mitigate cyber security risks to the reliable operation of the Bulk Electric System (BES) by implementing security controls for supply chain risk management of BES Cyber Systems.” I pointed out that all of FERC’s four items are included in this statement, so I thought this should really be the objective that entities must achieve in their plan(s).

But, after having done some pretty intensive reading of various documents having to do with CIP-013 and supply chain security, I came to realize that FERC’s statement is pretty good after all, and has the advantage of at least providing some substance to the meaning of the words “cyber security risks” in the Purpose statement. In other words, the Purpose statement is pretty broad, and doesn’t provide a lot of guidance to the entity in developing the plan, or to the auditor in auditing it. With FERC’s four things, the auditor has at least something to go on in the audit, while at the same time the entity has a (very) broad outline of what its plan needs to address. So I am now fine with Lew’s statement that FERC’s four objectives constitute the purpose of CIP-013.

Of course, these four things are far from being a roadmap to compliance with CIP-013! Lew’s article does give some clues to that roadmap as well, which I elaborated on in the two posts already linked. I’ll continue to elaborate on the roadmap in the next post in that series. But I do want to point out now that these four items don’t have equal standing, in my opinion. The last two constitute the two broad areas of risk that must be addressed in the supply chain risk management plan, while the first two are simply two of the individual risks that are included under the third objective. So FERC’s four objectives could be summarized by just listing the last two.

This all means that your CIP-013 R1.1 supply chain cyber security risk management plan must address risks of “information system[i] planning” and “vendor risk management and procurement controls”. And you need to show the auditors that your plan addresses both types of risk.

Any opinions expressed in this blog post are strictly mine and are not necessarily shared by any of the clients of Tom Alrich LLC.

If you would like to comment on what you have read here, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Please keep in mind that if you’re a NERC entity, Tom Alrich LLC can help you with NERC CIP issues or challenges like what is discussed in this post – especially on compliance with CIP-013; we also work with security product or service vendors that need help articulating their message to the power industry. To discuss this, you can email me at the same address.

[i] It’s unfortunate that FERC used the term “information system”, when they should really have said “control system” (although I initially thought there might be some significance to the fact that they did, as I discussed in this post after FERC issued Order 829 in 2016). Of course, NERC CIP doesn’t deal at all with information systems, whose purpose is to store and process information. The power grid, and other critical infrastructures, is controlled by control systems. These are what CIP protects.

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