The USA Department of Energy is considering using the blockchain to defend power plants from cyber attacks.
In fact, the department of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has announced that it has started the second phase of a project dedicated to grid security in collaboration with the decentralised cybersecurity startup Taekion.
The official statement explains that the objective of the project is to prevent cyber attacks on power plants by taking advantage of security applications still in the patent phase, some of which are based on blockchain technology.
The NETL states that one of the key features of the blockchain is that the data log is not stored in a single centralised location, but is distributed, i.e. stored in multiple locations. In addition, “there is always consensus from all parties on the content contained in a blockchain”.
Taekion is investing $1 million in this project and is exploring how blockchain technology can be used to protect a power plant and in particular the data contained in its registry, with all transactions from sensors, actuators and devices.
The idea would be to use the storage of this information in a decentralised ledger, without a single point of failure, so as to be able to protect it even in the event of a cyber attack on the plant itself.
For example, one of the cyber attacks that could be directed at power plants, including nuclear power plants, is the one that involves compromising the system so that it appears operational while it has actually been deactivated by hackers, leaving millions of people without electricity.
Such an attack occurred in Ukraine in 2016, causing several power outages during the winter months. The applications on which the NETL is working are precisely designed to counter this type of attack, preventing hackers from altering the operational information of the plant.
In the future, however, such a technology could also be used as a platform to develop tools that enable secure energy transactions, protect process data in generation plants, increase grid reliability and integrate a more decentralised energy infrastructure.
The Taekion project is managed by NETL and was funded through the SBIR program, created specifically by the US Congress to leverage small businesses for promoting innovation in federal agencies.