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Not Everything is Dark and Gloomy: Power Grid Protections Against IoT Demand Attacks


Devices with high energy consumption such as air conditioners, water heaters, and electric vehicles are increasingly becoming Internet-connected. This new connectivity exposes the control of new electric loads to attackers in what is known as Manipulation of demand via IoT (MadIoT) attacks. In this paper we investigate the impact of MadIoT attacks on power transmission grids. Our analysis leverages a novel cascading outage analysis tool that focuses on how the protection equipment in the power grid as well as how protection algorithms react to cascading events that can lead to a power blackout. In particular, we apply our tool to a large North American regional transmission interconnection system consisting of more than 5,000 buses, and study how MadIoT attacks can affect this power system. To help assess the effects of such cyber attacks, we develop numerical experiments and define new and stronger types of IoT demand attacks to study cascading failures on transmission lines and their effects on the system frequency. Our results show that MadIoT attacks can cause a partition of the bulk power system, and can also result in controlled load shedding, but the protections embedded in the operation of the transmission grid can allow the system to withstand a large variety of MadIoT attacks and can avoid a system blackout.

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