Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory and Visgence, New Mexico have designed and demonstrated technology that can prevent cyber-attacks on electrical utilities.
During a recent live demonstration at the INL Critical Infrastructure Test Range Complex, the Constrained Cyber Communication Device (C3D) was tested against a series of remote access attempts suggesting a cyber attack. The tool warned operators of abnormal commands and automatically blocked them, preventing attacks from accessing and damaging critical power grid components
The C3D tool uses advanced communication capabilities to send commands to protection relay devices. self-review and screening. Relays are critical equipment in national electrical networks that are used to quickly instruct circuit breakers to shut down when a fault is detected. For example, relays can also prevent expensive equipment from being damaged when a transmission line fails due to a severe storm.
However, relays have not traditionally been designed to slow the speed of cyber-attacks and detect stealth intrusion, since network equipment can receive wild commands in milliseconds. Intelligent and automatic filtering technology is needed to prevent such attacks.
“As cyber-attacks against national critical infrastructure have become increasingly sophisticated, a tool is needed as a last line of defense against threats. The C3D device is located deep within the utility network, monitoring and blocking cyber-attacks before they affect the operation of the relays, “said Jake Gentle, INL’s program manager.
To test the effectiveness of the technology, researchers They worked with industry experts for years, including specialists from the international engineering and environmental consulting firm Power Engineers. INL and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have also established an industry advisory body composed of electricity network and cybersecurity experts from the federal government, private industry, and academia.
Industry needs After a thorough survey and analysis of the composition of modern cyber threats, the researchers designed an electronic device that could be connected to the communication network of the protection relay. A 36-foot-long mobile substation was then built and connected to INL’s full-scale electrical grid test environment to create a scale-based grid environment.
When the entire system was online, researchers sent a sudden power outage command to the substation. relays and monitored the effects from a nearby command center. The C3D device immediately blocked the command and prevented the attack from damaging the larger network. The technology and software package will be further tested in the coming months before being licensed to the private industry.
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