skip to content
Insights Blog

Proactive Power Security in an Unpredictable, Digital World

Blog Insights - Power Security - Gannett Fleming.
Author: Kevin Walsh, PE, Substations Vice President
No doubt, technology has enabled our power systems to be more efficient, resilient, and reliable. Today, most components in a substation are embedded with or enhanced by IP addressable technology, not to mention the digitization of the entire power generation, transmission, and distribution system. The challenge is making sure utilities are prepared to handle the risks of this digital environment and the looming potential of cyberattacks that could cripple the ability to deliver safe, dependable power.

Thankfully, cyberattacks launched against U.S. power plants and distribution systems have not resulted in a major disruption in power delivery. Yet, the probability is real. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a targeted cybersecurity attack to select substations could cause regional blackouts, triggering the potential for significant damage and loss of life. 

Securing Cyber Vulnerabilities

A proactive approach to potential threats are an important line of defense. A typical substation has multiple feeder lines that distribute power out of the substation by means of digital protection and control instrumentation. It is conceivable that the susceptible relay hardware used as the primary protection for the feeder lines could be compromised through the Internet. 

The Gannett Fleming team has partnered with utilities to mitigate service interruptions in the event of a cyberattack. Strategies include reconfiguring the feeder lines to have a back-up, or secondary, means of protection, as well as putting controls in place to isolate the compromised feeder line. 

Comprehensive Cybersecurity Strategies 

As the power sector increases the use of digital technologies within its power systems, opportunities for cybersecurity issues continue to grow. A comprehensive, proactive strategy for cybersecurity will reduce vulnerabilities, mitigate risks, and maintain performance and reliability for power system operations. Every power system faces unique challenges, and integrating cybersecurity protections is key to delivering safe, reliable power and preventing hackers from penetrating critical controls.

Similar Blogs: Corporate, Power, Security & Safety