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DOE Helping Eaton Power a Safer Future

Sept. 15, 2020
Grant funds help Eaton obtain the intelligence needed for recovery and gain insight into potential network vulnerabilities.

Utilities are crucial infrastructure and as a result often surface as key targets for cyberattacks. After all, stripping power from entire regions would be difficult to overcome.

Unfortunately, current utility systems do not distinguish between electrical faults and disruption caused by a cyberattack. Eaton and NREL are working together to test, prototype and commercialize new technology that will help utilities identify the source of an intrusion, obtain the intelligence needed for recovery and gain insight into potential network vulnerabilities.

Michael Regelski, senior vice president, R&D for Intelligent Power Management Solutions and Electrical Sector chief technology officer at Eaton tells IndustryWeek, it is a complex challenge to distinguish between disruptions due to the physics of the electric grid and the malicious attacks that intend to disrupt the system. “Ultimately, better understanding of the baseline system and normal disruptions is key to isolate the root causes of abnormal behavior disturbances,” he says. “The main challenge is in creating a detection mechanism that applies all topology permutations from both the cyber and physical perspectives.”

Power management company Eaton recently announced that it was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) to further research initiatives to provide utilities with the intelligence needed to accurately detect, respond and recover from a cyberattack. Eaton is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on the project.

“Companies need trusted tools to improve the cyber resilience of their critical infrastructure,” says Regelski. “We’re developing a data-driven system that enables accurate and rapid recovery from cyberattack. This technology complements our comprehensive organization-wide approach to cybersecurity and preventive measures.”

Under the Department of Energy grant, Eaton will address the security gap at the edge-level of the power system through threat detection and real-time warning of potential conditions threatening grid stability and business integrity. The project timeframe is 18 months with an anticipated start in January 2021.

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