Technical Papers

Characterizing Cyber-Physical Attacks on Water Distribution Systems


This work contributes a modeling framework to characterize the effect of cyber-physical attacks (CPAs) on the hydraulic behavior of water distribution systems. The framework consists of an attack model and a MATLAB toolbox named epanetCPA. The former identifies the components of the cyber infrastructure (e.g., sensors or programmable logic controllers) that are potentially vulnerable to attacks, whereas the latter allows determining the exact specifications of an attack (e.g., timing or duration) and simulating it with EPANET. The framework is applied to C-Town network for a broad range of illustrative attack scenarios. Results show that the hydraulic response of the network to a cyber-physical attack depends not only on the attack specifications, but also on the system initial conditions and demand at the junctions. It is also found that the same hydraulic response can be obtained by implementing completely different attacks. This has some important implications on the design of attack detection mechanisms, which should identify anomalous behaviors in a water network as well as the cyber components being hacked. Finally, the manuscript presents some ideas regarding the next steps needed to thoroughly assess the risk of cyber attacks on water distribution systems.