CSL graduate student protects power grids from cyberattack

11/8/2018 Joseph Park, ECE

Written by Joseph Park, ECE

CSL graduate student Kartik Palani is working to protect power grids from cyberattacks along with researchers from Dartmouth University as part of a project called PhasorSec. Built at Dartmouth's Trust Lab, PhasorSec is a tool that "eliminates vulnerabilities that can shut down facility operations, trigger longer-term blackouts and even cause permanent physical damage" according to EurekAlert.
Kartik Palani
Kartik Palani

Power generation and transmission stations are relying more on phasor measurement units which measure electrical waves and transmit the information back to data monitoring systems. Since these units handle real-time information, hackers could potentially gain access to the critical infrastructure.

According to Palani's research paper, one of the primary tricks that are used by hackers to exploit utility devices is to identify vulnerabilities in the code that handles the input. Failure to properly recognize the input has led to vulnerabilities such as "Heartbleed" and "Shellshock."

"We are working to provide utilities with the most cost-effective deployment of PhasorSec filters for their critical infrastructure," said Palani who is a co-lead on the research. "PhasorSec and all of its supporting tools are open-sourced and we have been in discussions with utilities that want to customize it for their operational settings." Palani is also a graduate student within ECE ILLINOIS.

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This story was published November 8, 2018.