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Written By:

James Won-Ki Hong, IEEE CTN Editor-in-Chief

Published: 25 Sep 2012


CTN Issue: September 2012

1. Smart Attacks in Smart Grid Communications Networks

Smart grids are the hot topic of the day, and issues around their integrity are very important because of the critical dependence of modern societies on power Networks. Historically, this did not matter very much because the control networks for power grids were less automated and over private communication networks. Now however, as these control grids potentially share public networks, and at the same time as security issues are affected by non-state actors, it could well be that the success or failure of smart grids will depend heavily on whether they can be made sufficiently secure.

The article by Chen. et. al. provides an excellent overview of the challenges facing smart grids from a network security standpoint. In doing so, the article also gives a general overview of network security for non-experts. Attacks at the network structure level as well as at the protocol level are described, and countermeasures are discussed. The research models the interaction between the attacker and the defender as a two-player game, and uses this approach to evaluate the security of the entire network. This aspect may be of interest to some people, but the general description of the vulnerabilities and defences would be of interest to the general reader. This article further highlights new security concerns from co-existence and interaction between cyber and physical worlds, using smart grid as an example.

Title and author(s) of the original paper in IEEE Xplore:
Title: Smart Attacks in Smart Grid Communications Networks
Author: Pin-Yu Chen, Shin-Ming Cheng and Kwang-Cheng Chen
This paper appears in: IEEE Communications Magazine
Issue Date: August 2012

2. Synchronous Ethernet to Transport Frequency and Phase/Time

Traditional Ethernet networks operated using local clocks with relatively low accuracy compared with traditional optical network (SONET, SDH) clocks. As such, Ethernet is not inherently suitable for transporting synchronization information (i.e. frequency and phase) in a telecom sense.

In 2005, the ITU initiated a study on transport of synchronization information (frequency, phase/time and signaling) over Ethernet links, similar to the manner in which optical links have traditionally been used for this purpose. The goal of this work was to facilitate a transition from the traditional optical (SONET, SDH) network to the newer data-centric, packet-based networks which are primarily based around Ethernet, in a manner that would allow existing usage of synchronization information to continue; a good example of such a case is the transport of timing information to cellular base-stations, which was traditionally done using a TDM link, and could now be done using a data link.

This has resulted in the definition of a new technology called Synchronous Ethernet, which is capable of carrying telecom-quality synchronization information over Ethernet links. This paper provides an introduction to this technology suitable for the general reader. It then provides background on the relevant standards, and on an underlying messaging protocol, which may be followed up for further information.

This article also addresses the emerging problem of time (i.e. phase) transport, which is now becoming an interesting additional task for synchronization networks. It provides the rationale for this task, and gives an example of how this may be accomplished in a manner similar to the existing IEEE 1588 PTP protocol using a mechanism called Time Synchronous Ethernet. The casual reader will get a useful understanding of these emerging technologies from this paper.

Title and author(s) of the original paper in IEEE Xplore:
Title: Synchronous Ethernet to Transport Frequency and Phase/Time
Author: Ken Hann, Sebastien Jobert and Silvana Rodrigues
This paper appears in: IEEE Communications Magazine
Issue Date: August 2012

Statements and opinions given in a work published by the IEEE or the IEEE Communications Society are the expressions of the author(s). Responsibility for the content of published articles rests upon the authors(s), not IEEE nor the IEEE Communications Society.

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