Cyberattacks on any power grids an easily lead to blackouts, economic damages and finally a lot of instability. It is for this reason a team of researchers have been looking into “nightmare” scenarios under which hackers can exploit the vulnerability of systems and operate a disruptive series of cyberattacks. The most basic problem in this respect is the gap between intangible software and physical equipment. New developments in the smart grid technology like the smart meters in homes, management frameworks for energy resources distribution such as solar and wind generation along with the instrumentation systems from the power plants, control centers or substations. These can create both entry points and improvements for hackers.
Che-Wooi Ten, an associate professor of computer and electrical engineering at the Michigan Technological University, adds, “Ten years ago, cybersecurity simply didn’t exist—it wasn’t talked about and it wasn’t a problem. Now with events like in Ukraine last year and malware like Stuxnet, where hackers can plan for a cyberattack that can cause larger power outages, people are starting to grasp the severity of the problem.” Ten also likes to point out that hackers, usually, aim the specific segments of power infrastructure control network and emphasizes on the controlling mechanisms for it. Automated systems administer most of the grid right from production to transmission for usage.
As Ten likes to point out, the cost reduction and convenience of automation directs the procedure, however, without any substantial security solutions, it also enhances the vulnerability of the system. The interconnectedness of this grid can lead to several cascading impacts leads to equipment failure, islanding, and blackouts causing regions to cut-off and get isolated from the central power grid. The team designed a system that can continuously assess the power grid bottleneck and its interconnectivity with closeby grids. They made use of quantitative methods for prioritizing cybersecurity safety to ensure better safety and security for power grids. Ten further explains, “You know your health is at risk because we monitor systolic and diastolic numbers, so perhaps you work out more or eat healthier. The grid needs established metrics for health too, a number to gauge if we are ready for this security challenge.”
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