SCADA Vulnerabilities and Electric Power Industry

Topics: SCADA, Electricity generation, Smart grid Pages: 15 (4404 words) Published: October 3, 2014
SCADA Vulnerabilities and Electric Power Industry

Electricity is an essential element of life in the United States. It is crucial to manufacturing, business companies, residences, and certain methods of shipping. A deficiency in electricity can not only cause trouble, but also financial loss due to reduced business and manufacturing production. This paper will look at the basic concepts of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, their vulnerabilities in regards to cyber attacks, and the efforts to increase security. It will also seek to provide some of the project management phases of SCADA for real-time implementation, while identifying advantages and disadvantages of SCADA in concert with Power Distribution.

SCADA Vulnerabilities and Electric Power Industry

Electric Program Managers (Plant Mangers) today are undertaking many problems and tasks which are common to the job, such as maintenance, restoration, mitigation projects and planning for the current and future demands. SCADA has its advantages; it has been a big instrument in power distribution, and excellent contributor in giving more visibility to Plant Mangers, also making their occupation to some extent trouble-free and more efficient. However, the digital age leaves many different utilities companies and platforms open for attacks. Systems are put into place to curtail such catastrophes: one such system is called SCADA or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. SCADA is used to monitor systems, prevent system malfunctions, and in general keep the infrastructure of power plants, water and sewer plants, and treatment centers from ever having to be compromised to do the aforementioned issues. Current SCADA Applications

SCADA systems are used by governments to monitor their power/electric, water, and treatment plants across the country. These facilities are vulnerable to “weather conditions, equipment failure, accidents” (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517) as well as to cyber attacks. On the former, SCADA is a way to “modernize” the facility through technological advancements that examine facility’s “fault diagnosis as well as troubleshooting systems” (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517). SCADA is implemented into these facilities in order to resume control of them and is used for “data acquisition of diverse kinds of processes” (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517). Within the SCADA infrastructure, certain subsystems are utilized, these include man-machine interface (MMI), in which there is a human operator who takes process data and monitors/controls it. SCADA also has a supervisory system which acquires data and sends it to process. SCADA also utilizes Remote Terminal Units (RTU) that “connect[s] to sensors in the process, converting sensor signals to digital data and sending digital data to the supervisory system” (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517). Actions for SCADA can be made remotely using RTUs “or by programmable logic controllers (PLC) (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517). This allows for SCADA to be either set up for a specific task or allow access to its controls through MMI. This enables a system to operate successfully and with minimal error. For instance, if an error in a system occurs, SCADA will detect it and an alarm will go off alerting someone to the problem. This can be useful for electrical plants for level monitoring, performance of machines (and upgrades or malfunctioning), as well as for “sustainable development” (Lakhoua & Jbira, 2012, p. 517). This “sustainable development” focuses on such plant/systems information as “levels, flows, pressure…logged in the HMI computer database for reports and trends” (SCADA, 2012, para. 2). The celerity and efficacy of SCADA has to be as absent of foibles as possible in order for the system to function at optimal performance. In lieu of this necessity, SCADA (which has literally thousands of “remote telemetry sites monitor[s]” (SCADA, 2012, para. 3) is operated in...

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