Researchers Team with Con Edison to Safeguard the Smart Grid

Con Edison has teamed with researchers at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering to advance the safety and security of the utility’s burgeoning smart grid system. Professor Ramesh Karri and Research Assistant Professor Michail Maniatakos, both in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a $400,000 grant to build and test mechanisms to defend the smart grid against cyber attacks.

“As software and devices for smart grids become standardized, they become vulnerable to the same kinds of attacks that befall other networks and networked devices,” explained Maniatakos, who is also a member of the NYU Abu Dhabi faculty. “Safeguarding the grid against cyber criminals without degrading system performance is critical to ensuring the successful adoption of smart-energy systems.”

Over the next two years, the research team will put existing smart-grid devices to the test, subjecting microprocessors and controllers to simulated cyber attacks based on real-world scenarios, then developing defenses.

Their work will also include refining platform profiling methodologies utilizing existing processor features. For example, data from Hardware Performance Counters, originally intended to aid programmers in boosting system efficiency, can reveal anomalies that indicate compromised system integrity.

Finally, the researchers will develop external network profiling techniques to allow communication between devices to be monitored for malicious payloads. The researchers are focusing on security measures compatible with current hardware both to speed implementation and to avoid costly system upgrades.

Explains Corey Malone, a doctoral candidate working alongside the professors and doctoral candidate Charalambos Konstantinou: “None of the current software solutions available for defending against cyber attacks is relevant to the smart grid architecture, and it would be impossible to replace all the hardware.”