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Cyber Security Challenges in Heterogeneous ICT Infrastructures of Smart Grids

Florian Skopik and Lucie Langer
Safety and Security Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology

Abstract—A drastic change in modern power grids is underway. Conventional means of providing energy by centralized suppliers will not be sufficient to ensure the energy supply of our society in the future. Therefore, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are increasingly applied, for example, to allow a flexible integration of wind-, solar-, or biomass energy into the existing power grid. This integration of energy providers, consumers, producers and utilities by means of ICT is the cornerstone of a Smart Grid. With the increasing use of novel smart grid technologies, a comprehensive ICT network is established parallel to the electricity grid, which due to its large size, number of participants and access points will be exposed to similar hazards as the current Internet. However, the reliable energy supply of this system depends on the effective operation of ICT, and similar security problems such as in the current Internet would have severe consequences. Potential threats range from meter manipulation to directed, high-impact attacks on the critical infrastructure of the energy carrier that could damage or bring down parts of the national power grid. It is essential that security measures are put in place to ensure a future smart grid does not succumb to these threats, and to safeguard this critical national infrastructure at all times. One of the main challenges when building up smart grids is to cope with the heterogeneous character of applied technologies. Since product life cycles can span several decades, the overall system complexity will considerably grow in the next years due to the application of many different protocols and technical solutions. This heterogeneity eventually increases the attack surfaces to a smart grid and might also lead to an increased vulnerability. In this paper, we survey the most relevant protocols and standards today, and investigate their application and potential conflicts in future security-relevant smart grid use cases.

Index Terms—cyber attack scenarios, smart grid communi-cation, smart grid ICT infrastructure, security.

Cite: Florian Skopik and Lucie Langer, "Cyber Security Challenges in Heterogeneous ICT Infrastructures of Smart Grids" Journal of Communications, vol. 8, no. 8, pp. 463-472, 2013. doi:10.12720/jcm.8.8.463-472