Cyber Defense Tool Is an Early Warning System for Grid Attacks

A new tool will enable grid operators to better detect not only a brutal physical attack, but also a hacker probing for vulnerabilities

A rifle attack on an electrical substation near California’s Silicon Valley in April 2013 led to the development of a new tool for grid operators that will enable them to better detect not only a brutal physical attack but also the slightest hint of a hacker looking for vulnerabilities in these critical links in the grid.

The thousands of substations that are nodes in North America’s electrical grid receive high-voltage energy from transmission lines that originate at power plants and step down that voltage so it can enter local distribution networks to power homes and businesses. Although distributed in nature, grid operators worry that the loss of just a few critical substations could trigger an outage that cascades across a region, potentially crippling a major urban center.

Against those background events, a team of researchers working at the U.S. Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory completed work earlier this year on a project to design and implement a tool they say can detect cyberattacks and physical assaults on power distribution networks.

Berkeley Lab will lead work to develop algorithms that counteract attacks on solar inverters by sending opposite signals to nullify malware—similar to what a noise-canceling headphone does.

Read more at IEEE Spectrum Blog