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DARPA Mimics Power Grid Cyber Attack Through ‘Black Start’ Exercise

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has conducted a seven-day exercise on Plum Island in New York to simulate a cyber attack on the U.S. power grid, Nextgov reported Tuesday.

At least 100 people participated in the exercise that kicked off Nov. 1 to replicate “black start” or the restoration of power at two utility stations that were shut down for weeks by a cyber attack.

Several teams of grid operators, cyber researchers and cyber adversaries carried out the fourth black start exercise under DARPA’s Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems program.

The report said cyber researchers from Perspecta Labs, BAE Systems and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association used situational awareness tools and platforms designed to assess cyber attacks and isolate parts of the grid during the exercise.

Walter Weiss, RADICS program leader, told Nextgov the exercise sought to evaluate the capability of the cyber tools to counter the attacks launched by threat actors.

“We exercise with that absolute worst-case scenario where everything’s gone wrong, everything’s failed for a month and ask how are our tools still relevant,” Weiss said.

He said DARPA intends to continue conducting the exercise every six months through 2020 under the RADICS initiative.

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