The Use of Free & Open Source Software for Cybersecurity within the Energy Sector

The School of EECS and the Open Source Lab at Oregon State University conducted this exploratory project on behalf of EnergySec in order to map out the use of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in the energy sector with a focus on cybersecurity.

Through two surveys and a set of semi-­structured interviews, targeting both developers and policy makers, we identified key stakeholders, organizations, and FOSS projects rooted in industry, academia or public policy space that influence software and security practices in the energy sector. We explored FOSS tools used in the energy sector, common attitudes and concerns with regard to FOSS, and its role in energy cybersecurity,  legal concerns or solutions, and challenges and hurdles faced in adopting FOSS in the energy industry. More than a dozen themes were identified from interviews and surveys.

Of these themes, drivers for adoption and risks associated with FOSS were the most prevalent. More specifically, the misperceptions of FOSS, the new security challenges presented by the smart grid, and the extensive influence of vendors in this space play the largest roles in FOSS adoption. In light of these issues, suggestions are presented to help counter FOSS misperceptions and increase adoption throughout the energy sector. We conclude with a brief review of three FOSS communities that are led or heavily influenced by government agencies that have flourished in collaboration.

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Deborah Bryant is a Portland-based international expert in the adoption and use of open source software and open development models in the public sector, providing direct guidance and consultation to government in the US and abroad on issues such as project governance, community models, open source best practices, and open data initiatives.

She currently advises the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others on the use of open source in meeting cyber security challenges.

Her background in government includes five years at the state level, including Oregon’s executive branch as Deputy State CIO.  She also served in public office as an elected special district official in rural coastal Oregon. Prior to entering the public sector, Deborah helped build Oregon start-ups and held senior management positions in several emerging technology areas. In the 80s, she focused her work on parallel and high-speed computing and commercialized internet and web applications. While in the 90s, she specialized on commercial wide area networks, advanced telecommunications and data/voice convergence.

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