SSL.com Accredited as an Authorized Certification Authority (ACA) for NAESB

by Nick Naziridis / Saturday, June 23, 2018

Introduction

SSL.com was recently accredited by the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB)[01] as an Independent Authorized Certification Authority (ACA)[02]. After a successful external audit, SSL.com was found in compliance with the provisions imposed by NAESB WEQ-012 BPS for PKI standard, and was included in the list of ACAs maintained by the North-American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

NAESB ACA Accreditation

NAESB is a recognized industry forum, which develops standards for the institution of a seamless marketplace for wholesale natural gas and electricity. At first glance, this seems quite irrelevant to the PKI sector except that in late 2011, NAESB Wholesale Electric Quadrant (WEQ) published a new standard, attempting to establish a secure Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), with the goal of mitigating potential cyber-threats against the Energy Industry.

This standard, named WEQ-012 Business Practice Standard for Public Key Infrastracture [03], describes the minimum operational requirements that Certification Authorities (CA) must meet to guarantee the secure exchange of Industry data across the Internet. The accreditation specification defines several strict criteria, ranging from business best practices to technical implementation details, that must be completely satisfied by the candidate CAs.

As such, SSL.com has successfully completed an independent audit, which found the company in conformance with all the requirements listed in the WEQ-012 standard. As a result, it was accredited as a NAESB ACA, thereby becoming part of an exclusive network of trusted Certification Authorities, tasked with facilitating all Energy Industry’s demands for secure digital communications.

Why are NAESB certificates important

The NAESB PKI Standard was designed in an effort to alleviate potential vulnerability of the Energy Industry to external cyber-threats. The Power Transmission Grid, being one of the most critical components of the US technical infrastructure, is a strategically valuable target for cyber attacks. Being able to compromise the power grid, allows adversaries to significantly affect the function of numerous vital systems, such as defense or medical facilities.

This demand for secure communications is counter-balanced by the need for ease of use and access. The utility of NAESB-compliant digital certificates, such as those distributed by authorized CAs, is a fitting solution. Digital certificates can provide authentication, encryption and integrity to electronic communications among Industry participants, while still being versatile enough for a broad array of applications. For example, the aforementioned communications range from business operational transactions and reliable identification of the involved parties, to the transmission of periodic grid meter data. Later sections of this article, provide a short (yet in no case comprehensive) list of the most important use cases for such certificates.

How does this affect SSL.com clients

SSL.com has always exhibited an outstanding record in the PKI sector, being one of the very few 5-star rated Certificate Authorities. Since 2002, when it was created, it has provided top-notch services to leading organizations and governments of all sizes, in over 120 countries. Although, the company has repeatedly proven itself, more than capable to meet with any market demand, earning the title of a NAESB accredited ACA can only enhance its reputation. Being found compliant with the strict board certification process is evidence of the company’s continuous improvement and tenacity for technical excellence.

As a bonus, the NAESB accreditation allows SSL.com to provide digital certificates to its customers, following the standards of security and quality expected by the Energy Industry. Although such certificates were designed for applications in the power sector, they can also satisfy any other need for highly sensitive electronic communications. If you, the reader, are interested in the process of obtaining NAESB certificates, please don’t hesitate to click that “How can we help you?” button. On the other hand, if you are not familiar with the wholesale electricity market, keep reading for a brief explanation of the most common uses for NAESB certificates.

Common use-cases for NAESB Certificates

The Energy Industry is comprised of several complex commercial interactions that allow the seamless and consistent transmission of power, throughout the US territory. Various systems have been designed and implemented to allow Industry participants to exchange data for this specific purpose. Examples of such data include NERC tags, OASIS data and other similar information pertaining to the function of the power grid. Since the issuance of the WEQ-012 PKI Standard, most of these systems require the use of a NAESB digital certificate in order to grant the user access.

NAESB Electric Industry Registry (EIR) / webRegistry

EIR serves as a central repository that is used by industry participants to register and manage their company information regarding business operations, as well as transmission or scheduling procedures. Access to the current implementation of the registry, named webRegistry, requires a NAESB-compliant digital certificate issued by an ACA.

Open Access Same-Time Information System (OASIS) / webOASIS

Similarly, users of webOASIS, an internet-based system for obtaining services related to electric power transmission in North America, require such certificates to access it. webOASIS is the primary means, by which power transmission grid owners and operators can reserve high-voltage transmission lines, for moving bulk quantities of electricity across the country.

NERC Tags / E-Tags

The adoption of OASIS nodes allowed for energy transport to be scheduled between multiple power stations, thereby creating complex point-to-point transactions that connect regional power transmission systems throughout the continent. Transmission System Operators (TSO) needed a method of distributing real-time data for the scheduling and power flow management, across electric utility company territories, allowing them to prevent damage to the power grid. NERC Tags or E-Tags were designed to tackle this problem, in the form of digital scheduling information exchanged between power companies. E-Tags are protected by NAESB-compliant digital certificates such as those issued by SSL.com.

Electric Industry Data Exchange (EIDE)

Finally, EIDE is a network protocol designed by Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) Data Exchange Work-Group (DEWG), most commonly used for communicating grid information like meter data and other periodic power system data (e.g. lake elevations, generator discharge etc.) among Industry participants. EIDE is a web-based protocol, and consequently uses digital certificates for its authentication, encryption and integrity mechanisms. SSL.com is authorized to produce such digital certificates in compliance with strict Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulations.

Conclusion

The accreditation of SSL.com as an Authorized Certification Authority allows the company to provide PKI solutions in one of the most technically demanding, and yet important sectors, the Energy Industry. This accomplishment, in conjunction with the quality of its services, renders SSL.com the right choice for any critical application in need of secure digital communications.

As always, we will be happy to answer any further questions you might have, about our services or the technology behind it. Simply email us at support@ssl.com, visit our live chat, or fill out the form below. Thanks for choosing SSL.com, where we believe a safer Internet is a better Internet.

References

  1. About NAESB
  2. Accredited ACAs
  3. WEQ-012 ACA Certification

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