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Blog Editor’s Note: We like that folks are talking about PNT as a cyber issue. One that should very much be considered in “zero trust” considerations. 

While this might not be universally accepted yet by those in the cyber world, it is certainly something they are going to have to come to grips with.

We wrote about the Department of Energy’s efforts to secure the power grid from these kinds of problems with its Center for Alternative Synchronization and Timing earlier this year. This longer and more technical article by Nino De Falcis is a good follow-on.

Full disclosure, ADVA/Oscilloquartz is a member and supporter of RNT Foundation.


Can smart grids be protected from PNT cyberattacks?

September 2, 2022

Nino De Falcis

Nino De Falcis

By Nino De Falcis, Senior Director of Business Development, ADVA

Today’s critical network infrastructure is heavily reliant on positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services. Power grids, financial markets, transportation, data centers, communications — all have become more complex and interconnected, while the threats to the PNT on which they depend have grown in frequency and sophistication. PNT systems are so vulnerable to the activities of cybercriminals that attacks may soon become global in scale and significance, with potential costs of billions of dollars.

Utilities are a key example of infrastructure at risk. In the past, power networks were passive systems with everything simple and centralized, and with energy flowing in one direction only as AC power was provided to consumers. However, the growth in renewables and distributed energy resources has spurred diversification of the market, and a new paradigm of bidirectional AD and DC energy production and distribution has emerged: the smart grid.

Timing Challenges

Today, many smaller producers are generating power from multiple sources. The power grid has become a decentralized system and the flow of energy is now bidirectional. Energy from solar panels (microgrids), for example, can be generated by private individuals and either stored or fed back into the grid. Electric vehicles (EVs) are also becoming more common, and like all other nodes across the smart grid, charging points require precise timestamping of the massive amount of data they generate to balance power demand and supply.