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Protecting power grids from IoT attacks

Dr Subhash Lakshminarayana is co-leading the new project Power Grid IoT System Protection and Resilience using Intelligent Edge (Power-SPRINT), with Prof. Carsten Maple (WMG). This project is funded under the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity.

Critical infrastructures (e.g., power grids, transportation systems, nuclear plants, etc.) are witnessing unprecedented cyber threats against their system operations. In particular, power grids are attractive targets since their disruption can have serious social and economic consequences. The BlackEnergy attack against Ukraine’s power grid in December 2015 was a real-world example, which caused power outages for 225,000 customers for several hours. The growing integration of Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enabled smart-home appliances at the consumer end, such as Wi-Fi-enabled air conditioners, battery storage systems, plug-in-electric vehicles, and so forth, presents a new threat to power grid operations. Large-scale attacks against IoT devices, such as the Mirai Botnet attack (targeting 600,000 devices), are well documented. If a similar attack targets the IoT-enabled electrical appliances, it may pose a severe threat to power grid operations. The Power-SPRINT project will investigate such cyber security threats in modern-day power grids. It will present a systematic risk analysis of large-scale IoT-enabled cyber attacks against power grid operations and formulate machine learning algorithms to detect such attacks that can be implemented at edge devices.

Dr Lakshminarayana said of the award: "This is my first significant research funding, so I am excited to be leading and managing the project. In collaboration with our industrial partners (Schneider Electric and Global Cyber Alliance), I hope to make a real-world impact towards securing UK's power grids. I am also excited to be a part of the PETRAS research community, which hosts the UK's leading cyber security researchers. PETRAS will provide me a great platform to showcase my research and establish new research collaborations."