A Military Planning Methodology for Conducting Cyber Attacks on Power Grid

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Power grids are regarded as significant military targets and have been targeted with kinetic attacks in previous military operations. These attacks resulted in significant levels of physical destruction, which, in the long-term, both undermined the success of the operations and caused severe adverse effects on the human terrain. Since power grids have grown as a result of introducing advanced technologies, they have also become more dependent upon cyberspace and are thus exposed to cyber attacks. Since cyber attacks have demonstrated the ability to creating physical/nonphysical effects with surgical precision, they have emerged as a credible option for disrupting power operations for a reasonable duration. However, these types of attacks sometimes require complex coordination with entities from distinct fields for efficient planning; a lack of awareness of the global picture about how to conduct these attacks could result in miscalculations and cause a repeat of the same past failures.

Motivated by this fact, this thesis holistically analyzes the steps involved in conducting cyber attacks on power grids for the purpose of gaining military superiority and provides a comparison for the capabilities, challenges, and opportunities of kinetic and cyber attacks. For the purpose of creating a comprehensive framework for this thesis, the following considerations have been incorporated: the analyses of goals, targets, solutions, and effects of previous military operations; the physical and cyber infrastructures of power grids; and the features, challenges, and opportunities of cyber attacks. To present the findings, this document has adopted a novel military methodology for both the cyber attack analysis and the comparison of the means.

Cyber Warfare, Power Grid, Cyber Attack, Kinetic Attack