Cybersecurity in Electric Grid


Electricity is a huge part of one’s day-to-day activities. From switching on a light to making any kind of simple or complex machine work, the basic source behind their working is electricity. A complex network of equipment like power lines, transformers, switches, etc controls the delivery of electricity whenever, wherever, and, as required. These equipments collectively form the ‘Electric Power Grid’ or simply ‘Electric Grid’. The electric grids can be of different sizes and can cover different areas, from small cities to large countries and continents. Growing risk for Electric Grids: With rapid urbanization and technological advancements in various areas, the electric grids became more intricate and inter-connected. The electric grids were required to effectively meet the dynamically changing electrical requirements. The complex network of Electric Grids is considered to be one of the most critical infrastructures, as electricity is the major source that drives every industry. Hence the proper functioning and security of Electric Grids is of utmost importance and has a direct impact on economies. As per various reports, the sector of Energy is one of the most targeted areas of attack. A powerful attack on any kind of Electric Grid can lead to adverse consequences that might impact different sectors much beyond the Energy sector. Evolution of Electric Grids and related Cyber Risks: The use of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition(SCADA) systems for collecting measurements, status data, and sending control commands to switching devices is an essential feature of an Energy Management System(EMS) in an electric grid. The wide adoption of information technology to perform real-time control, monitoring, and maintenance tasks in an electric grid has moved SCADA to digital communications. With the support of information and communication technology(ICT), the evolving electric power networks have taken on Smart Grid capabilities that offer improved efficiency and reliability, leading to a smarter and more automated/connected electric grid. The secure operations of a smart grid is tampered by cyber intruders/cyber attackers who have the ability to access power system communication networks’ infrastructure. As a result, cyber security of modern electric grids has been recognized as a critical issue. With a plethora of advanced electronics entering the Electric Grids every now and then, diligent monitoring of the evolutionary and cybersecurity aspects of the Electric grids are of prime importance. Cybersecurity Perspective: The development of methods to detect cyber intrusion and eliminate or mitigate their impact in a smart electric grid is of prime concern. The vulnerabilities in cyber infrastructure of a smart grid need to be identified first. The confidentiality and integrity of the grid data can be ensured by developing cryptographic protection mechanisms for power industry communications. SCADA, being a core component of control systems, is a primary target for cyber attackers. The specific vulnerabilities of SCADA and EMS have to be identified and cybersecurity systems developed to mitigate them. Researchers are working on developing an integrated anomaly detection system (IADS) for securing the substation communication system. The basic work on IADS has resulted in the development of a prototype of a coordinated cyber attack detection system. It is to be noted that there is no standard to assess the performance of ADSs/Intrusion Detection Systems in an electric grid. This is an area that needs to be looked into from a cybersecurity perspective. The challenges posed by the myriad of shared jurisdiction responsibilities call the need for a unified national effort in strengthening and maintaining a secure and resilient electric grid. A common approach in achieving the primary properties of confidentiality, integrity, availability and nonrepudiation for all ICT systems supporting the electric grids lies in designing, developing and deploying cybersecurity technologies for protection, detection and response.

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