How prepared are we against Cyberattacks on Power Grids?

Network Countermeasures: The attack detection and mitigation techniques in network countermeasures protect the system from cyberattacks. It provides better and secure protocol stacks to smart grid ensuring improved and efficient communications throughout the network. The communication network integrated with these countermeasures are deployed via network architectures. The commonly employed Network Countermeasures are:

  1. Attack Detection for Power Networks: The foremost step to countermeasure cyberattacks in the power system network is attack detection. There is a continuous interaction between information networks and electric devices in energy system. As a result, Denial of Service (DoS) attack can be launched at any point of communication networks. Hence, Smart Grid should be able to detect and counter such DoS attacks.
  2. Applying Attack Mitigation Mechanism with Power Networks: It (attack mitigation) is applied in order to prevent network nodes from attacks. Normally, it is deployed with attack detection schemes. This (attack) mechanism includes network-layer mitigation and physical Layer mitigation.
  • Network-Layer Mitigation: The common approach to mitigate cyber-attacks are basically designed for network layer. And most of these approaches are effective for internet. Network-Layer Mitigation use three different methods—Rate-limiting, Filtering and Reconfiguration.
  • Physical-Layer Mitigation: Jamming is commonly employed DoS scenario that is witnessed particularly in some distribution and transmission areas where there is wireless network. Hence, for the continuous delivery of data, the communication networks have to be resilient and protected against such cyber-attacks. At present, there is progress on the development of jamming resilient scheme and these schemes are designed in coordinated and uncoordinated manner.
  • Insertion of a Security Layer: To manage DoS attacks on the smart grid, the countermeasures are applied into network protocols, standards and architects. By leveraging existing protocols and extending security to existing power communication techniques, secured protocols are developed. The security extensions that can be incorporated into existing protocols and standards are: Secure DNP3 and IEC61850.

Cryptographic Countermeasures: This countermeasure effectively deal with such attacks that target integrity and confidentiality rather than network. It commonly employs encryption and authentication as key countermeasures.

  1. Encryption: Data encryption is a tool that is helpful to maintain security. For the encryption of transmitted data, both symmetric key and asymmetric key cryptography are used. The symmetric key cryptography uses same key for encryption and decryption of messages whereas private keys are used for encryption and public keys for decryption in asymmetric cryptography.
  2. Authentication: It is a process that verifies and confirms the identity claimed by special device against one or more parameters that are assigned by particular device. The entities that requires authentication might be IED or software.

Subarna Poudel is a researcher with Frost & Sullivan. He can be reached at

Sapan Agarwal drives content and marketing for Frost & Sullivan. Sapan is based out of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and can be reached at | +603 6204 5830

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