(March 28, 2016) -- Ahmad Taha, assistant professor of electrical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has received a $30,000 grant to support his top-tier research to detect and halt cyber threats to electrical grids. Taha’s work will focus on smart grids, Internet-enabled devices that now generate and monitor much of the electric power in the U.S., and protecting them from cyber attacks.
“In the past few decades, we’ve become increasingly reliant on the Internet. That reliance naturally spreads to machines and devices that generate and consume electricity,” Taha said. “This is especially true with communication networks, and as a result those networks and much of the cyber world is embedded into smart grids.”
Smart grids encompass most energy systems, such as smart meters in people’s homes and renewable energy resources like wind and solar energy. The energy industry has invested heavily in smart grids in recent years, capitalizing on benefits such as digital communications technology, which allows for computer-based remote control and automation.
“All of our basic infrastructures, such as transportation, air traffic control and water distribution systems depend on electricity and smart grid technologies,” Taha said.
While smart grids are modern and efficient, they’re susceptible to cyber attacks, which can be difficult to detect. Cyber terrorists could hack into smart grids and affect smart meter measurements, which could cause a person’s energy bill to skyrocket. On a larger scale, tampering with a smart grid can result in a blackout.
“Just a small blackout could have serious consequences to our local and federal economies,” Taha said. “The 2003 Northeast Blackout only last a few days, and yet it caused billions of dollars in damage.”
In collaboration with the Argonne National Laboratory and fellow UTSA faculty Nikolaos Gastis and Bing Dong, Taha plans to visualize these disturbances by using actual data from smart grids to simulate an attack. Repeatedly testing his digital protections identify weak spots in smart grids, so that the attackers can’t target those areas again.
“A huge part of the analysis of smart grids is understanding how electric power is generated and flowing in the network,” he said. “Once you understand how this works, it’s possible to see when something unusual is occurring.”
Taha expects his research will lead to infrastructures that not only detect when tampering is occurring within a smart grid, but also to track the person who is hacking into it.
“Smart grids are the cornerstone of our economy,” Taha said. “They’re also a huge part of everyone’s daily lives, and they need proper protection.”
Learn more about cybersecurity at UTSA.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The Office of International Programs will host a Study Abroad Fair for students interested in taking their academics abroad.
University Center main corridor, Main Campus
The UTSA Institute for P-20 Initiatives and the Texas Mentoring Partnership hosts the 5th Annual Texas Mentoring Summit. The theme Mentoring: A Pathway To and Through College & Career will focus on the positive impact mentoring can have on student success from k-12 through college and beyond.
Wyndham Riverwalk Hotel, Downtown San Antonio
The UTSA Political Science and Geography Department hosts a panel discussion called "Forecasting the Trump Presidency" on the eve of Inauguration Day.
H-E-B University Center, Bexar Room (HUC 1.102), Main Campus
The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy invites everyone to its monthly lecture and stargazing at the Curtis Vaughan Jr. Observatory.
Flawn Science Building (FLN 2.02.02), Main Campus
The UTSA Music Department presents Miller-Porfiris Duo (violin/viola) in a performance of period appropriate music as accompaniment to the silent films, "The Great Train Robbery," "The Violinmaker of Cremona," and "Ballet Mecanique."
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The CACP 2016-2017 Speaker Series continues with architect and writer Jason Griffiths of the University of Arizona and Jason Griffiths Architecture. His practice is based on a multidisciplinary approach.
Buena Vista Building, Aula Canaria Auditorium (BVB 1.328), Downtown Campus
UTSA's Department of Music hosts Dr. David Huron from Ohio State University as part of the Donald Hodges lecture series. Huron is a Canadian arts and humanities distinguished professor at Ohio State University.
John Peace Library, UTSA Faculty Center, (JPL 4.04.22), Main Campus
The UTSA community is encouraged to donate blood and save a life. Donors will also receive a free t-shirt.
H-E-B University Center parking lot, Main Campus
Dr. Stephanie Westney (violin) presents a concert of Mozart compositions as performed by herself and other talented musicians from the university and surrounding area. This concert is free and open to the public.
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion annually hosts a Volunteer Opportunities Fair to allow students, faculty and staff to learn about volunteer and service-learning opportunities in the San Antonio area.
University Center, 1st floor corridor, Main Campus
Join the conversation about the experiences of military-connected families in transition. Free parking in the Cattleman Square (along Buena Vista Street). The event is free and open to the public.
Frio Street Building, Riklin Auditorium (FS 1.406), Downtown Campus
School district superintendents and other district leaders responsible for bilingual and ESL programs' administration and accountability learn about cultural literacy, language, and diversity in the community.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.