Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis (Undergraduate)


Department of Computer Science

First Advisor

Sean W. Smith


Researchers are pursuing methods of securing the cyber aspect of the U.S. power grid, one of the country's most critical infrastructures. An attacker who is able to infiltrate an Energy Management System (EMS) can instruct elements of the grid to function improperly or can skew the state information received by the control programs or operators. In addition, a cyber attack can combine multiple attacks and affect many physical locations at once. A study of the possible adverse effects an attack could generate can underline the urgency of improving grid security, contribute to a roadmap and priority list for security researchers, and advise on how defending against cyber attacks can differ from defending against point failures and physical attacks. In this paper I discuss the physical and cyber systems that compose the power grid, and I explore ways in which a compromise of the cyber system can affect the physical system, with a particular emphasis on the best means of creating large disturbances. Further, I consider ways in which cyber attacks differ from physical attacks.


Originally posted in the Dartmouth College Computer Science Technical Report Series, number TR2010-668.