Date of Graduation

7-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Electrical Engineering

Advisor

H. Alan Mantooth

Committee Member

Roy A. McCann

Second Committee Member

Chris Farnell

Keywords

grid-connected devices, cybersecurity, grid reliability, cyber attacks, digital twins, vulnerabilities, Hardware-In-Loop (HIL)

Abstract

This thesis aims to develop a reference design of an online security system approach embedded in a power electronic controller for cybersecurity purposes. Cybersecurity in power electronics focuses on reducing vulnerabilities in the system, where most reside in the communication with the hardware devices. Although methods to secure communications lessen the probability and effects of cyber-attacks, discovering vulnerabilities is inevitable. This thesis attempts to provide a fail-safe approach to securing the system by targeting the safety of the power-electronic controller. This approach applies an additional security layer in case of a malicious or accidental controller firmware malfunction.

The online security system is embedded in a controller board consisting of three main hardware components described in this thesis: Serial Communication Interface, Digital Signal Processors, and Field Programmable Gate Array. This security system consists of a real-time emulation and Hot-Patching approach to validate the power electronic controller firmware. This thesis will describe the fundamentals of real-time Hardware-In-Loop emulations and Hot-Patching and evaluate their combined contribution in securing this hardware controller. Under a controlled experiment, purposefully harmful firmware will be loaded and patched on the controller board to evaluate the efficacy of the controller malfunction detection. Parallel to the firmware validation process, the controller will continuously control a power electronics inverter with a known valid firmware. Conducting additional real-time test scenarios will demonstrate the efficacy of the emulation and Hot-Patch. The results from this experimental setup will establish the conclusions drawn, followed by recommendations for future work and discussion of enhancements.

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