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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) organized a mass cyber resilience exercise on the US national power grid at Plum Island. The team had to restore power to two utilites and to a critical national building
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in US organized a mass cyber resilience exercise on the national power grid. Between November 1 and 7 a group of experts trained to face a “black start.” The scenario was that a digital strike took out one of two operational utility stations, and the other one was also under attack. A team of grid operators had to restore the power across the utilities and to the building deemed as a critical national asset. Moreover, the cyber security researchers assisting the grid operators had to use every piece of technology and know-how they had to ensure that utility stayed powered up, trustworthy and malware-free. As Nextgov reports, the exercise took place on Plum Island. A federal research facility off the north fork of Long Island, where DARPA researchers segregated a portion of the island on its own electric grid.
The team of grid operators has been joined by DARPA-funded cyber security experts, both as defenders and adversaries
The center of the DARPA exercise was a team of grid operators from electric utilities across the nation, which was in charge of restoring and sustaining power. At its most basic level, their job involved creating initial power transmissions at both utilities using a diesel generator, then building cyber-secure “crank paths” through a series of electric substations, that would increase the transmissions’ voltage until they were capable of powering the two utilities and delivering redundant power to the exercise’s critical asset. Meanwhile, another team of DARPA-funded cyber security researchers from seven different industry groups, used custom built technology to keep the grid operators’ efforts protected from cyber adversaries. According to Nextgov, a third Agency -funded team took the role of the cyber adversaries, throwing a wrench into the good guys’ efforts every time they seemed to be getting ahead.
The Plum Island’s one is the fourth “black start” exercise led by DARPA’s RADICS program and the first one on a large scale. The US Agency plans to continue this initiatives every six months, until the RADICS program expires in 2020
The Plum Island’s one is the fourth “black start” exercise led by DARPA’s Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems (RADICS) program. The first two ones were conducted in research labs. Last one one took place on Plum Island but on a smaller scale and without public observers. The new one, that involved more than 100 people, is the first one on a large scale. Moreover the RADICS doubled an Energy Department exercise called Liberty Eclipse. DARPA plans to continue this initiatives every six months. This until the RADICS program expires in 2020. After that, hopefully, the project will continue under the Energy Department or another federal agency.