New System Trains with Bad Data

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, looking to train grid operators to recognize bad information due to instrument failure or malicious hacking, were surprised to learn from vendors that this wasn’t standard industry practice for hands-on training simulators currently used by the electrical transmission industry.

PNNL then worked to create specific scenarios for the simulation of misleading, false data. Now, it’s possible to intentionally insert false data and manipulate grid conditions to create plausible bad information conditions. PNNL researchers are able to study the response of operators dealing with conflicting or bad data both before and after receiving the training.

To demonstrate the hands-on training curriculum, PNNL asked seasoned operators from the Bonneville Power Administration to participate in a pilot training class. Simulations included malfunctioning instruments or fake signals sent by hackers to get a baseline response. Then operators received training on cyber security and awareness of the threats hackers can pose to the grid which was followed up with another “shift” in the simulator.

“We found that once operators became aware of the very real potential for bad information, they were better able to come up with new courses of action and troubleshoot faster when confronted with a situation that could lead to widespread power outages,” said Jeff Dagle, an electrical engineer supporting this project.

However, researchers found the responses of operators varied significantly, indicating that more rigorous training in this area would provide a standardized approach for emergencies involving compromised data.

COMPAMED.de; Source: DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory