NRECA’s Essence 3.0 cybersecurity solution is going from a research and development project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to a commercial solution already deployed at nearly 55 electric cooperatives and with growing demand by more.
“We have a go-to-market strategy to actively market and sell Essence to utilities, including our co-op members,” said Wayne McGurk, NRECA senior vice president and chief information officer.
The tool’s core capabilities include passively mapping a co-op’s network, providing situational awareness to grid operators and observing digital conversations between networks and devices.
This latest version of Essence has been expanded to identify 32,000 threat and vulnerability characteristics for information technology and operational technology to spot anomalies on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) networks and issue alerts.
“The bottom line is cybersecurity threats have a cascading effect—they cause outages, equipment degradation or they downright destroy equipment,” said McGurk.
“With Essence monitoring your OT and IT systems associated with the grid, you have the instant ability to know what is going on with your system and track cyberthreats sooner and mitigate before it can potentially get catastrophic. Essence elevates situational awareness across the grid.”
Current Essence 3.0 customers include generation and transmission cooperatives that in turn provide the solution’s coverage to their member distribution co-ops. In total, Essence effectively provides 149 co-ops serving a total of 4.6 million meters nationwide with next-generation systems to detect cyberthreats.
Co-ops are providing “overwhelmingly positive” reviews about Essence 3.0’s new capabilities and performance and its flexible component-level architecture for easy deployment, McGurk said.
“Essence 3.0 is purpose-built for co-ops and utilities with new capabilities for protecting American critical infrastructure,” said McGurk.
“With electrical grids, you must be concerned not only with IT but also OT in order to protect the grid. Not only does Essence 3.0 have a better user interface, but better performance, and we cover the ecosystem across both IT and OT.”
Visit the Essence page on electric.coop to learn more about the tool or to request a demonstration. There will also be a four-hour training session on Essence at TechAdvantage® Experience in Nashville, Tennessee, next month.