Data-driven cyber attack detection and mitigation for decentralized wide-area protection and control in smart grids

Wang, Pengyuan
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Modern power systems have already evolved into complicated cyber physical systems (CPS), often referred to as smart grids, due to the continuous expansion of the electrical infrastructure, the augmentation of the number of heterogeneous system components and players, and the consequential application of a diversity of information and telecommunication technologies to facilitate the Wide Area Monitoring, Protection and Control (WAMPAC) of the day-to-day power system operation. Because of the reliance on cyber technologies, WAMPAC, among other critical functions, is prone to various malicious cyber attacks. Successful cyber attacks, especially those sabotage the operation of Bulk Electric System (BES), can cause great financial losses and social panics. Application of conventional IT security solutions is indispensable, but it often turns out to be insufficient to mitigate sophisticated attacks that deploy zero-day vulnerabilities or social engineering tactics.

To further improve the resilience of the operation of smart grids when facing cyber attacks, it is desirable to make the WAMPAC functions per se capable of detecting various anomalies automatically, carrying out adaptive activity adjustments in time and thus staying unimpaired even under attack. Most of the existing research efforts attempt to achieve this by adding novel functional modules, such as model-based anomaly detectors, to the legacy centralized WAMPAC functions. In contrast, this dissertation investigates the application of data-driven algorithms in cyber attack detection and mitigation within a decentralized architecture aiming at improving the situational awareness and self-adaptiveness of WAMPAC.

First part of the research focuses on the decentralization of System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS) with Multi-Agent System (MAS), within which the data-driven anomaly detection and optimal adaptive load shedding are further explored. An algorithm named as Support Vector Machine embedded Layered Decision Tree (SVMLDT) is proposed for the anomaly detection, which provides satisfactory detection accuracy as well as decision-making interpretability. The adaptive load shedding is carried out by every agent individually with dynamic programming. The load shedding relies on the load profile propagation among peer agents and the attack adaptiveness is accomplished by maintaining the historical mean of load shedding proportion. Load shedding only takes place after the consensus pertaining to the anomaly detection is achieved among all interconnected agents and it serves the purpose of mitigating certain cyber attacks. The attack resilience of the decentralized SIPS is evaluated using IEEE 39 bus model. It is shown that, unlike the traditional centralized SIPS, the proposed solution is able to carry out the remedial actions under most Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

The second part investigates the clustering based anomalous behavior detection and peer-assisted mitigation for power system generation control. To reduce the dimensionality of the data, three metrics are designed to interpret the behavior conformity of generator within the same balancing area. Semi-supervised K-means clustering and a density sensitive clustering algorithm based on Hieararchical DBSCAN (HDBSCAN) are both applied in clustering in the 3D feature space. Aiming to mitigate the cyber attacks targeting the generation control commands, a peer-assisted strategy is proposed. When the control commands from control center is detected as anomalous, i.e. either missing or the payload of which have been manipulated, the generating unit utilizes the peer data to infer and estimate a new generation adjustment value as replacement. Linear regression is utilized to obtain the relation of control values received by different generating units, Moving Target Defense (MTD) is adopted during the peer selection and 1-dimensional clustering is performed with the inferred control values, which are followed by the final control value estimation. The mitigation strategy proposed requires that generating units can communicate with each other in a peer-to-peer manner. Evaluation results suggest the efficacy of the proposed solution in counteracting data availability and data integrity attacks targeting the generation controls. However, the strategy stays effective only if less than half of the generating units are compromised and it is not able to mitigate cyber attacks targeting the measurements involved in the generation control.

Cybersecurity, Data-driven, self-adaptive, situational-aware, Wide-area protection and control