Inderscience Publishers

The security of power systems and the role of information and communication technologies: lessons from the recent blackouts

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This paper analyses the impact of information and communication technologies upon the security of networked infrastructures, making specific reference to the situation of the electric power sector. It discusses the lessons learnt from the recent blackouts, and concludes with the identification of the main technological security challenges faced in this field. In recent years, both Europe and the USA have experienced a significant number of huge blackouts, whose frequency and impact looks to be progressively growing. This paper shows that these events had common roots in the fact that current risk assessment methodologies and current system controls no longer appear to be adequate. Beyond the growing complexity of the electrical system as a whole, two main reasons can be listed: (1) system analysis procedures based on these methodologies did not identify security threats emerging from failures of critical physical components; and (2) online controls were not able to avoid system collapse.

Keywords: electric power infrastructure, security, risk assessment, control systems, standards, R&, D issues, research and development, critical infrastructures, ICT, information technology, communications, power blackouts

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