Project Overview
The SPARKS Project Overview

Overview and Goals The future smart grid represents a significant evolution in the way electric grids function. At the core of this change is an increased use of ICT to implement enhanced monitoring and control in the distribution network at medium and low-voltage levels. Ensuring the cybersecurity and resilience of smart grids is of paramount importance. This is the target of the EU-funded SPARKS – Smart Grid Protection Against Cyber Attacks – project.

The project aims to provide innovative solutions in a number of ways, including approaches to risk assessment and reference architectures for secure smart grids. The project will make recommendations regarding the future direction of smart grid security standards. Furthermore, key smart grid technologies will be investigated, such as the use of big data for security analytics in smart grids, and novel hardware-supported approaches for smart meter (gateway) authentication. All of these contributions and technologies will be assessed from a societal and economic impact perspective, and evaluated in real-world demonstrators. Specifically, the project has the following objectives:

  • Promote the awareness of existing and emerging smart grid cyber-security risks to stakeholders, including energy network operators, industry and policy makers.
  • Develop procedural and technical countermeasures, and provide cost assessments of the developed technologies via business cases.
  • Investigate privacy issues related to smart grid development, especially in the areas related to customers like smart metering, taking into account existing legislation and providing guidance for future activities.
  • Control systems research will investigate the relationship between key control loops in a smart grid, and propose designs that enable semi-autonomous islands of control, which maintain stable operation in the face of attack or disruption.
  • Real-time network monitoring and data analysis is essential for building advanced SCADA-specific intrusion detection systems – SPARKS will develop innovative technologies in this area.

Overall, SPARKS results will reduce the attack surface of smart grid systems, detect cyber-attacks in real-time, and improve the resilience of smart grid infrastructure during an attack. Furthermore, SPARKS will provide a deeper understanding of the threats, vulnerabilities and economic consequences of cyber-attacks on smart grid infrastructure, raise awareness amongst industry leaders, present convincing information to stakeholders, lead the debate and draw through action to improve the cyber readiness of European network operators.

AIT SmartEST Laboratory
The AIT SmartEST Laboratory

Project Demonstrators The project will use multiple comprehensive smart grid testbed capabilities: the world-class facilities at the AIT SmartEST Lab, the NIMBUS microgrid, and the real-life and large-scale facilities provided by the Distribution System Operator (DSO) partner SWW Wunsiedel. These are available for development, testing and demonstration of the measures, technologies and scenarios that are pivotal in the SPARKS project.

The SPARKS Stakeholder Group  A core objective of SPARKS is to raise the awareness of stakeholders in the European and international smart grid community to cybersecurity concerns, and to support European industry in developing world-leading protective measures. To support this objective, the SPARKS stakeholder group has been created. Members of the stakeholder group will be invited to a series of workshops throughout the lifetime of the project to receive privileged access to the projects results, and provide requirements and feedback that will steer the project’s research activities.

The SPARK project is supported by the EU FP7 Programme under Contract No. 608224.