Protecting Against Cyber Attacks on the Power Grid

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The potential for cyber attacks on the power grid is very real, especially with the advent of electronic devices that send information about assets that supply energy to the grid.

In fact, in the first half of 2015, the federal government responded to more than 100 cyber incidents that affected infrastructure in the US. And the energy sector had the largest number of attacks, says Florida International University.

The university, along with the U.S. Department of Energy and other institutions, is working to prevent problems associated with such attacks, says Osama Mohammed, a professor with the university in this podcast interview. (Listen by clicking the link above.) Part of the strategy is to focus on distributed resources, to link them together, and to protect them, he says.

Under the FIU project, researchers are working to embed security protection in electronic devices that communicate information to the grid.

“Intelligent devices are used to send signals between various points,” he explains. “They can be intercepted…We are working to ensure the components can behave the way they’re supposed and have cyber security embedded in them so they can recognize if intruders are trying to access larger assets,” such as power plants.

The work, which involves other universities and the Arkansas Electric Cooperative, was funded by a $12.2 million award from the DOE plus $3.1 million in matching funds from the research participants.

Microgrids are important to the security of the grid because they can provide power to the grid and can be networked to provide distributed energy if the grid is down, he says.

Researchers are looking at ways to aggregate distributed resources and use them during major blackouts. “The grid becomes a collection of distributed resources,” says Mohammed in the interview.

The research will focus on protecting important assets such as microgrids and smart meters.

“The…researchers will address vulnerabilities and challenges in delivery systems of the U.S. power grid. Their goal is to protect hardware assets, make systems less susceptible to cyber attack and provide reliable delivery of power if such an attack were to occur,” says the university in a blog.

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