(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.
Orientation marks a major step toward becoming a Roadrunner. It is a unique experience designed to welcome freshmen and transfers to UTSA and ensure a successful transition into college. They will learn about UTSA, prepare for their first semester and have fun meeting other students. There is also a special Family Orientation program too.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Come out and meet Dr. Ray Bateman, ARL South Cyber on-site Lead, and Kristin Schweitzer who form the nucleus of ARL South Cyber on our campus. They will give a brief overview of the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and how it fits within the Army’s hierarchy. Morning session is 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Afternoon session is 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
John Peace Library (JPL 4.04.12C), Main Campus
Join the UTSA Master of Social Work Advanced Social Work Methods Policy Practice Advocacy Class for a panel discussion on child care policies and its effect on higher education. Event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Buena Vista Street Building (BVB 1.322), Downtown Campus
UTSA Associate Dean/Associate Professor Francine Romero will sit down with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg for a wide-ranging conversation about the Mayor's vision for the City's future. Seating is at capacity but the San Antonio Express-News will stream it live.
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
The sympoisum will focus on the interface between aging and neurodegenerative diseases, will educate the wider research community about advancements in this fast-paced field and stimulate collaborative research in this area. Register online for this free event.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.106), Main Campus
The 23rd International Conference on Historical Linguistics is offering four special panels open and free to the San Antonio public July 31-Aug. 3 to mark the tricentennial next year. The event is co-sponsored by UTSA Research.
Hotel Contessa, 306 W. Market St., San Antonio
The UTSA community welcomes students to their on-campus home! Laurel Village, Chaparral Village and Alvarez Hall are home for 2,300 students during the academic year, and Move-In event kicks off the start of Roadrunner Days.
Laurel Village, Chaparral Village, Alvarez Hall, Main Campus
The College of Engineering hosts this seminar featuring Jeff Adams, Southwest Zone Quality Manager, Siemens Building Technologies Division. The event is free and open to the public.
Engineering Building (EB 3.04.30), Main Campus
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