communication across the power grid (chombosan/Shutterstock.com)

Getting power to the grid after a cyber attack

In the event of a cyberattack on the electric grid, most communications networks would go down, making it more difficult to restore and recover power.

To address that problem, the Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems (RADICS) program, being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and BAE Systems, is  testing technologies that can detect and respond to cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, especially those parts critical to the Defense Department.

The goal of the new protective technology is to detect and disconnect unauthorized internal and external users from local networks within minutes and create a robust, hybrid network of data links secured by multiple layers of encryption and user authentication. BAE said.

“DARPA is interested, specifically, in early warning of impending attacks, situation awareness, network isolation and threat characterization in response to a widespread and persistent cyberattack on the power grid and its dependent systems,” DARPA Program Manager John Everett said. 

The BAE System’s technology relies on advances in network traffic control and analysis to establish and maintain emergency communications. It quickly isolates the attacked system and moves to an alternative Secure Emergency Network (SEN) that is designed to operate in the absence of prior coordination among affected organizations and regardless of power availability, internet connectivity, disparate IT networks and grid infrastructure technology, situational awareness and ongoing disruption efforts by adversaries.

The SEN can use wireless internet technology, radio communications or satellite systems to ensure the grid continues to function if under attack, developers explained.  

It coordinates the restart of critical operational traffic , which needs to be completed according to a sequential process, enabling relevant portions of the grid to connect with one another so a secure network can stand up, BAE officials said.  SEN then facilitates the stable operation of the power grid.

The SEN is designed to function essentially as a wireless network without an infrastructure that ensures end-to-end communication between power grid nodes to provide transport of critical, real-time communication within the affected area, according to Victor Firoiu, senior principal engineer and manager of communications and networking at BAE Systems.

The project is a three-phase, four-year program that ends in June 2020.  The first two phases are focused on research and development of technologies, and the last phase is dedicated to technology transition. 

This article first appeared on Defense Systems, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. He can be reached at kosborn@1105media.com.

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