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Eftekharnejad secures grant to protect power systems from cyberattacks

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Professor Sara Eftekharnejad has been awarded a $499,550 National Science Foundation grant to investigate securing the smart grid from cyberthreats. The findings of this research will establish the foundations for protecting the most critical assets in power grids.

The systems that monitor power systems are changing. There is rapid deployment of remote sensing devices such as phasor measurement units (PMU) and integration of more capable supervisory control and data acquisition systems. Power system operators use PMU measurements to make critical decisions about dispatching power. With more utilities adopting PMUs for real-time system monitoring, power systems are exposed to more cyberthreats targeting these devices.

Eftekharnejad's research will determine the impacts of data intrusion on PMU devices, and will propose mitigation strategies. The outcomes will identify cyberattacks that can result in cascading blackouts as well as the most critical components of power systems that are likely to be targeted by cyberthreats. This multidisciplinary research will focus on three fundamental goals: quantifying the impact and severity of false data injection; detecting anomalies; and mitigating the impacts.

The mitigation methods uncovered by this research could be extended to other complex networks and the proposed methods for identifying most critical components could be employed in other industries.

Jim Alves-Foss and Brian Johnson of the University of Idaho will act as co-principal investigators on this research.

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