IEC 61850 Global 2020 Blog

Keep up to date with the latest developments on the IEC 61850 Global 2020 virtual conference, run by Smart Grid Forums.

Interview: Hydro-Quebec IREQ

This week we caught up with Marthe Kassouf, Research Engineer at Hydro-Quebec IREQ in Canada. Marthe is scheduled to speak in the afternoon of conference day two of IEC 61850 Global 2020, on the subject of novel approaches to preventing IEC 61850 supply chain cyber-attacks. Marthe kindly gave us an insight into the project she will be drawing on for her presentations, and the information she will be sharing.

What were the drivers for your project?

The need to define a novel and appropriate research approach for power grid cybersecurity investigation. The approach leverages the IT/OT convergence through the integration and correlation of data generated by different IT and OT sources and the implementation of enhanced IT/OT system monitoring. We rely on the assessment of emerging cybersecurity standards (such as the IEC 62351), the use of telecommunications – power system cosimulators for a reliable modelling of power grid assets and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning methods for fast intrusion detection and efficient attack mitigation. Our cybersecurity approach can be applied to different power grid environments, such as substations, power plants, control centres, etc.

How did you secure investment for this project?

The Hydro-Quebec Research Institute (IREQ), in collaboration with the University of Toronto (UofT), was granted funding by the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Canada to conduct a technology demonstration project (2017-2020) aiming at the development of the IT/OT convergence-based cybersecurity approach and the implementation of a proof-of-concept using cyberattack scenarios targeting IEC 61850 substations. Additional funding has been provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to the University in order to support complementary research collaboration activities between IREQ and UofT.

What have been some of the most significant practical challenges you’ve overcome in this project and lessons you’ve learnt so far?

While developing and testing our research approach we faced different challenges. Technical challenges while setting up the experimental environment included: Ensuring synchronization and error control for the cosimulation platform, implementation of reliable active monitoring mechanisms using network management for IT and OT systems and IEC 61850 logical nodes polling, and efficient data collection and processing mechanisms. Non-technical challenges included: The need to have multidisciplinary teams and to involve people from different IT and OT groups in the power utility.

What does the roadmap you’ve set for the future look like?

Further development of our cybersecurity approach and the enhancement of our cosimulation, data analytics and IT/OT monitoring capabilities. Further collaboration projects with industrial and other academic/government entities.

What will you be sharing with delegates at the IEC 61850 Global 2020 virtual conference?

I will be describing our research approach, sharing our use-case outcomes and clarifying our recommendations for cybersecurity improvements.

Marthe’s will be one of 24 utility case-studies being presented at IEC 61850 Global 2020. Alongside the case-study agenda, there will be 8 x supplier presentations, 8 x live Q&A sessions, a 90-min roundtable discussion session, and more, all in just two intensive high-value days!