(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.
UTSA Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and Houston's Russian Children's Theater presents "Wonderful Journey of Nils Holgerson"
Arts Building, Recital Hall (ART 2.03.02B), Main Campus
Take Back the Night is an international initiative to end violence. The event begins with banner making, followed by a march, presentations and poetry reading.
Sombrilla, Main Campus
Members of the UTSA community have published “Adapt and Overcome: Essays of the Student Veteran Experience,” an important book to help active duty military and veterans successfully transition to college life. The event includes a panel discussion with UTSA alumni student veterans who contributed chapters to the book. Guests can also purchase the book. All proceeds benefit the UTSA Student Veteran Association.
Business Building, University Room (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
The Graduate School is hosting a panel discussion for all of our current students, alumni and members of the San Antonio community who are interested in learning more about graduate education.
Graduate School and Research Building (GSR 1.204), Main Campus
The annual UTSA Graduate fair gives students an opportunity to meet representatives who can provide the information on admission requirements, fellowship opportunities, and other key information.
University Center, Main Campus
A recruiter will speak to potential candidates for the Archer program. The Archer program has helped students land successful careers in public service.
Durango Building (DB 2.208), Downtown Campus
Canadian scholar Jasmin Hristov will present a lecture on paramilitarism, complex type of politically-motivated violence in different parts of Latin America. This presentation will explain paramilitary violence as a tool of economic globalization.
Buena Vista St. Bldg., Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus
The UTSA College of Engineering Technology Symposium showcases innovative student projects and research performed across multiple disciplines including engineering, science and business. The public is invited.
H-E-B UC Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
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.