Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructure

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.

Since EXata CPS and HYPERSIM

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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.

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