Power Generation Systems Need Blockchain Security

Human society is facing the critical challenges of climate change, more frequent extreme weathers, energy shortage, and ever-increasing energy demand and these challenges drive the reconstruction of the aging energy structure. 

The recent cyber attacks against oil pipeline giant Colonial Pipeline and other organisations in the US have highlighted the critical necessity to focus on cyber security.

 Modern power generating systems are rapidly evolving into complex cyber-physical systems and the increasingly complex interaction among different energy entities calls for a secure, efficient, and robust cyber security infrastructure. 

Both government and industry are having to focus  attention on their critical infrastructure and the potential exposure to cyber attacks. Internet-based operations are now used to monitor industrial systems, commerce and aspects government which are  vulnerable to denial-of-service and cyber-attacks.

  • Industrial Control Systems (ICS) which control a physical plant through the use of sensors and actuators are the backbone of critical infrastructure found in power, water, manufacturing and other industries. 
  • Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) uses other peripheral devices such as discrete Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) to interface with process machinery or plant. 

Companies typically use ICS and by extension SCADA systems, to gather real-time data on all aspects of industrial production, ranging from the refining of oil to the control of waste disposal and even coordinating the transportation of goods. SCADA systems are primarily made secure through local area network (LAN) and WAN devices. These tools allow for increased monitoring of SCADA processes. However, these systems can be breached in a variety of ways. 

A blockchain framework could help prevent such attacks, especially if it encompasses Internet-of-Things, 5G and other emerging technologies. Blockchain could provide increased security for SCADA systems by acting as an instrument of authentication, authorisation and non-repudiation of critical data. 

Blockchain is focused on creating trust in an untrusting ecosystem, making it a potentially strong cyber security technology. It is basically a public database with a growing set of data records that’s continuously maintained by nodes participating in the blockchain. Rather than having a single authentication server on the network act as the only source for authentication and data integrity verification, nodes in a blockchain use a distributed model, where the participating nodes maintain a continuously growing list of ordered records called blocks. 

Two specific cases that blockchain could be used in are as a secure protocol between SCADA display units and remote terminal units, and as a verification tool to validate system firmware and software. Integrating blockchain technology with Internet-of-Things devices and 5G could add additional layers of security for SCADA systems.

While powerful in their own respects, combining these revolutionary technologies through all-encompassing tools like private networks are the best way to secure SCADA systems in both the short and long term.

Science Direct:         I-HLS:       OPTO22:       Springer

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