Just last year, a report revealed that malicious software had been inserted into the United States’ power grid, presenting a security risk with the potential to shut down power to every corner of the country. With increased security as the ultimate goal, Siemens Corporate Technology’s research team in Princeton, New Jersey, has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy with the task of bringing splintered regional systems under a common security framework that can be customized to the needs of any power grid automation system, creating defense against all future intruders.
The average grid system is around 40 years of age, and built in a time when today’s cyber attacks were unimaginable. With this in mind, the team has developed a common framework that can be run by control centers and substations. Designed to provide encryption and decryption capability, a security agent within the security framework resides next to the protected electronic device, detects intrusions and controls network access.
With most legacy substation communications systems built on low bandwidth phone wire, a security switch ensures time-critical data is not delayed to and from the system by working with the security agent through a security manager. This is controlled through an operating console, where the security manager within this framework manages and monitors the entire secure system at the asset owner’s control center. Using this architecture, the framework is targeted to provide a highly secure communications solution in a cost-effective fashion.
Siemens partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho National Laboratory, and the Center for Advanced Energy Systems at Rutgers University, to develop the prototype of the framework. It has been tested at Idaho National Laboratory. Together with Rutgers, the team worked to build risk models for both substations and the overall grid, which ensured an optimized security plan that is cost effective and allocates resources accordingly.
The resulting security solution ensures each individual substation across the grid contributes to the collective security of the national infrastructure. Going forward, this technology could find its way into other critical infrastructure systems, such as the nation’s oil and gas pipelines, which suffer from similar security issues. This prototype, together with several other DoE-funded projects, was demonstrated at DistribuTECH trade fair at Tampa, Florida.