“Secure GPS Clock Synchronization in Smart Grids”

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Radu Onica (advised by Nuno Ferreira Neves, António Casimiro)

Master’s thesis, Mestrado em Segurança Informática, Departamento de Informática, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, Jul. 2015

Abstract: Smart grids resulted from the integration of computer technologies into the current power grid. This brings several advantages, allowing for a faster and more efficient deployment, configuration and maintenance, as well as easy integration of new energy sources (e.g., wind and solar). As smart grids continue to grow in size and complexity, they become subject to failures and attacks from different sources. Time synchronization plays a crucial role in the stability and correct functioning of many grid components. Considering how sensitive time synchronization is, the tight restrictions imposed for correct operation and the lack of any kind of protection, makes this service a potential prime target for attackers. Today most of the time synchronization requirements are met using relatively expensive GPS hardware placed in some locations of the smart grid. When GPS was first devised, nobody could have predicted the success and the impact that it would have and therefore, security was never an important concern. Through the years, it slowly gained entrance into more critical systems, where it was never intended to be used, which can lead to serious security problems. The smart grid is just one of these critical systems where GPS is being employed without any kind of protection. The focus of this research is trying to solve this problem, by proposing a more secure and robust clock synchronization algorithm. A solution based on the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) was developed that manages to fulfill the time synchronization requirements of the smart grid and is also capable of mitigating all types of identified GPS attacks. As an added benefit, the solution may also reduce the number of GPS receivers necessary for the correct operation of the smart grid, contributing to decrease costs.

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Project(s): Project:SEGRID

Research line(s): Fault and Intrusion Tolerance in Open Distributed Systems (FIT)

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