Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructure

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Cyber threats against public utilities and other critical infrastructure are now just as common as attacks on governmental and corporate computing environments. Instead of simply losing sensitive data, malicious attacks against power generation and distribution systems, water treatment plants, and transportation facilities can disrupt commerce and daily life across a wide area. There is a pressing need for operators to determine how resilient their communications fabric is to cyber attacks and to develop plans to mitigate the associated risks. SCALABLE’s high fidelity network emulation is used to simulate and predict the behavior of networked environments based on various operational scenarios, including cyber attacks. The emulation runs in real-time and models connections, computers, protocols, firewalls, and other defenses.

SCALABLE has developed a high-fidelity network emulator, EXata CPS, to simulate the underlying communication fabric of electrical grids and test the cyber resilience of such systems. EXata CPS is integrated with OPAL-RT’s HYPERSIM simulator on the same hardware (or box) to offer a complete real-time cyber-physical solution for the development, testing, and assessment of electrical grids with communication networks. HYPERSIM, which simulates the physical system, is the only real-time digital simulator with the power to simulate electromagnetic transients of large-scale power systems, tackling operational and reliability issues threatening a power system’s cybersecurity. This integration of EXata CPS and HYPERSIM provides a means to test the resilience of power systems to cyber attacks and improve their cyber defenses, thereby helping to ensure cybersecurity, reliability, and efficiency of such systems.

Since EXata CPS and HYPERSIM reside on the same box, they can employ low-latency communications at Layer 2 (MAC or link layer) to analyze cyber threats that can be injected at these lower layers in the physical system. An example is an attack on a power grid control system that modifies sensor messages to the controller, reporting less power than is actually available, leading the controller to shed power by stopping service to some residential consumers. Another example is an attack which delays a message from a controller to an actuator to shut down a generator, possibly leading to overloading and hence damaging parts of the grid. EXata CPS provides a means to more effectively identify and visualize the impact of cyber attacks on monitoring and control systems used by power systems. With EXata CPS, specific environments can be replicated in a lab, and “what if” scenarios can be quickly evaluated to determine what happens to power systems if they are subjected to cyber-attacks.

Ensure the Resilience of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)

EXata for Cyber-Physical Systems (EXata CPS) supports the creation of network digital twins to improve the efficiency of their infrastructure systems while advancing the reliability of their grid. EXata CPS integrates with OPAL-RT power simulators to allow synchronized emulation of communication systems and power grid components.

  • Assess the effectiveness of tools, techniques, and architectures to protect SCADA systems from diverse cyber threats
  • Analyze and visualize network state and attacks without threatening operations
  • Measure and improve system resiliency and mission assurance

Innovative SCADA Cybersecurity Training Using Network Digital Twins

Explore our unique solution for protecting Critical Infrastructure using EXata for Cyber-Physical Systems (EXata CPS), and our Network Defense Trainer (NDT). NDT leverages EXata CPS network modeling capabilities and provides additional capabilities to identify and log human actions, correlating those actions with cyber-attack progression, network performance, and cyber-physical system behavior.

  • The impact of cyber-attacks on critical SCADA operations
  • How can we predict the complex interactions between cyber-attacks, defensive actions, and Cyber-Physical Systems?
  • How do we safely train operators to prevent or contain cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure?

Defending Power Grids from Cyber Attack – Learning from the Ukraine Attack

In December of 2015, the world witnessed a troubling new advent – the first power grid outage caused by a cyberattack. The region was the western Ukraine, where malevolent actors took around 30 substations and two power distribution centers offline.

Concerns about the threat of cyberattacks on the industrial control systems found in electrical grids continue to emerge. On March 5, 2019 the Department of Energy, reported the first disruptive cyber event on record for the U.S. power grid.

In order to ensure the resilience of their networks, organizations are looking to use network digital twins to replicate their environments and understand the impact of cyber threats. See the example below of the Ukraine attack modeled in EXata.

SCALABLE also partnered with Parsons to focus on providing innovative cyber security services to critical infrastructure customers. SCALABLE showcased our network modeling and cyber-attack simulation technology and expertise in the Parsons’ Cyber Innovation Center (CIC). The companies constructed an array of demonstration and evaluation scenarios in the CIC laboratory which integrate live operations control equipment and IT systems with realistic virtual network models to represent actual critical infrastructure environments at full scale. Prospective customers are able to experience first-hand how different types of cyber events can impact operational capabilities and learn how Parsons’ security services would help minimize potential risks and maximize system resiliency.

Related Resources

Co-simulation Testbed Developed with OPAL-RT Technologies

Learn the benefits of co-simulation for development, testing, and assessment of electrical grids with communication networks.

Cyber Security Solutions for Critical Infrastructure

Network operators must determine how resilient their communications fabric is to cyber attack and to develop plans to mitigate the associated risks.

CEO Spotlight: Securing Cyber-Physical Systems

Operators such as the New York Power Authority (NYPA), along with others, have successfully implemented the EXata solution to improve the efficiency of their infrastructure systems, while at the same time advancing the reliability of their grid.

Key Features of EXata

Real Time Emulator

Seamlessly interface with other live equipment and applications

Cyber Testing

Test the resiliency of your network to Cyber Attacks

Network Digital Twin

Test your network in a low-cost, zero-risk environment


Model thousands of nodes with parallel execution

Model Fidelity

Models simulate accurate real-world behavior

Commercial enterprises, educational institutions, and governmental organizations around the world all depend on reliable, effective networks to deliver business-critical, mission-critical communications, and information. SCALABLE maintains a highly experienced group of technical professionals to support customers and projects of any scale and solve challenging problems with our advanced network digital twin technology.

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