Electrical engineer takes on the job of IT security head

Unique career path gives utility a way to help combine Operational Technologies and IT security

Pepco, a large utility that serves Washington DC and the surrounding area, is in the political bullseye. Its customers include many members of Congress so a security breach that hurts service would get noticed.

It's Michael Kuberski's job, as Pepco's chief information security officer, to keep the utility off the radar. But that didn't stop him from sitting down with a group of reporters Monday at an IBM sponsored meeting to talk about his role at the utility.

Kuberski is Pepco's first CISO, appointed to this post this year. His appointment may be part of a ongoing broader trend to combine IT security with operational technologies (OT), meaning physical systems.

Kuberski, an electrical engineer by training, said he has spent half his career designing control and communication systems, and then moved into IT systems, "so my uniqueness is I have the ability to bring OT and IT together."

Gartner has reported on the converging worlds of OT and IT in number of industries, in part because the underlying technologies in operational systems are becoming more like IT systems.

Within the organization, Kuberski, who was previously manager of enterprise architecture, said he reports to the senior vice president of strategic initiatives across the enterprise. In his role as CISO, "I can go across the whole enterprise."

One of the reasons why Pepco and some industry groups are talking publicly about their security efforts, at least on a high level, is to provide assurances that that industry can address its security threats. They want the government to share more data about threats and security issues without imposing new regulatory requirements.

Kuberski said that information security has high visibility at his utility, including regular updates to its board of directors. No utility wants to be the first to have their control systems taken out, "so everybody is looking at this seriously," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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