As the electric grid becomes smarter, it also becomes more vulnerable to hackers. | Creative Commons.
Today’s electric grid increasingly uses “smart” devices that can be controlled remotely — letting operators manage the grid better and more efficiently. But as the electric grid becomes smarter, it also becomes more vulnerable to hackers. That’s why a new initiative underway at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to prevent hackers from gaining control of parts of the nation’s power grid, which could damage electrical equipment and cause localized power outages.
Tackling the challenge is Erfan Ibrahim and his team at NREL’s Cyber Physical Systems Security and Resilience Center. Ibrahim’s team launched an effort to build the Test Bed for Secure Distributed Grid Management. It’s a hardware system that mimics the communications, power systems, and cybersecurity layers for a utility’s power distribution system, the part of the power grid that carries power from substations to homes and businesses.
The test bed incorporates a lot of brand-new cybersecurity technologies that need to be tested in order to make the system as secure as possible. So, naturally, they tried to break it. Specifically, they tried to hack the system.