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Protecting Solar Farms and Tech Against Cyberattacks

A new study from the University of Georgia recommends a novel strategy for protecting the nation’s solar farms, which might be a target of a cyberattack. A team from UGA’s College of Engineering proposed a sensor system that monitors a crucial electrical component of solar farms for indicators of cyber-intrusion in real-time in a research published in IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid.

Hackers may exploit the converters that connect solar farms to the electricity grid, which is a rising worry. Power electronics converters in modern grid-connected solar farms can be managed remotely, however, this internet connection also increases the risk of hacking.

In general, semiconductor switching devices are used in power electronics to control and convert electrical power flow from one form to another. By speeding manufacturing processes, enhancing product efficiency, and improving the delivery of reliable power from utilities, this technology has changed modern life.

Power electronics components in a solar farm transform direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar photovoltaic panels into alternating current (AC) electricity for grid use. By 2030, the US Department of Energy forecasts that up to 80% of electricity would have passed through power electronics devices.

The UGA researchers devised a system that can identify anomalies in a power electronic converter’s operations in real-time using only one voltage sensor and one current sensor to protect against cyber threats. The system can discriminate between normal conditions, open-circuit faults, short-circuit faults, and cyberattacks using deep learning approaches.

Data on electrical waveforms are collected by a small, passive sensor device linked to the power converter and fed to a computer monitor. Even if the firewall or security software failed to identify an assault, the sensors would detect unusual activity in the power electronics device’s electrical current. The system can also perform diagnostic tests to discover the nature of the issue.

In tests using a solar farm model, the UGA researchers said their technique showed more adept at recognising cyberattacks than existing detection systems that just detect irregular waveforms. The researchers also claim that their system can detect new sorts of cyberattacks not yet encoded into deep learning algorithms.

The researchers have filed a patent application in the United States for their method, claiming that the sensor system might defend manufacturing systems, office buildings, and even smart homes from cyberattacks. The research is part of a bigger US Department of Energy-sponsored initiative that includes many institutions and national labs. The University of Arkansas is leading the charge in developing technologies that will defend the solar grid from hacking. For UGA’s part of the project, Ye is the primary investigator.

The researchers have filed a patent application in the United States for their method, claiming that the sensor system might defend manufacturing systems, office buildings, and even smart homes from cyberattacks. The research is part of a bigger US Department of Energy-sponsored initiative that includes many institutions and national labs. The University of Arkansas is leading the charge in developing technologies that will defend the solar grid from hacking.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, to improve coordination and bolster cybersecurity efforts related to data collection and information sharing, New York has launched the Joint Security Operations Center (JSOC) to bring together federal, state, county, local governments and critical infrastructure partners. JSOC will provide leaders from across the state a comprehensive overview of the cyber-threat landscape and improve coordination regarding threat intelligence and incident response.

Historically, state agencies have conducted independent cybersecurity efforts. However, acting alone is no longer considered the optimal approach, as the increased frequency and sophistication of attacks have prompted entities to rely on each other for support. New York in particular is a prime target for cybersecurity attacks, as the state’s prominent role in finance, energy, transportation and health care make it an attractive target for cybercriminals looking to disrupt operations. JSOC is expected to become operational in the coming months.

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