Pentesting Smart Grid and SCADA

Justin Searle Dec 3-4


Ends october 15


Ends December 2


Ends December 6

Course Abstract

The Smart Grid brings great benefits for electric utilities and customer alike, however these benefits come at a cost from a security perspective. With increased functionality and addition inter-system communication, Smart Grid brings with it a greater risk of compromise that both Utilities and Customers must accept. To minimize this risk, penetration testing must be performed to minimize the exposed vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit this critical infrastructure that exist in all countries around the world.

This course provides a chance to perform hands-on penetration testing of the hardware, network protocols, and controlling servers of four of the most important systems in the Smart Grid, namely smart meters, Home Area Networks (HAN), SCADA, and synchrophasors. The course will be structured around the formal penetration testing methodology created by the National Energy Sector Cybersecurity Organization Resource (NESCOR), a United States Department of Energy project. Using this methodology, we'll look at the common features provided by AMI “smart” meters, dissect the ANSI c12 family of protocols they use, and the systems they connect to. From there we’ll work with Home Area Networks, discuss how they are commonly deployed, capture and exploit their ZigBee communications, and discuss the impact for end users and utilities. Next we'll look the three most common SCADA protocols used in the Smart Grid (ModBus, DNP3, and IEC 61850), play with the devices they control such as PLCs, and examine the infrastructure used for substation automation. Finally we'll look at synchrophasor architectures, look at their most common protocol (C37.118), and discuss how they are used in Wide-Area Monitoring, Protection, and Control (WAMPAC), and the vulnerabilities we should be testing for. The course exercises will be performed on a mixture of real world and simulated devices to give students the most realistic experience as possible in a portable classroom setting.

Course Objectives

Course Prerequisites

Basic penetration testing experience is desirable, but not required. It is assumed that attendees will have no knowledge of Smart Grid, SCADA, or critical infrastructure. This course is designed for intermediate level security professionals, be they developers, managers, or penetration testers.

Resources Your Responsible to Bring

Resources Provided at the Course


Justin Searle is a Managing Partner of UtiliSec, specializing in Smart Grid security architecture design and penetration testing. Justin led the Smart Grid Security Architecture group in the creation of NIST Interagency Report 7628 and currently plays key roles in the Advanced Security Acceleration Project for the Smart Grid (ASAP-SG), National Electric Sector Cybersecurity Organization Resources (NESCOR), and Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP). Justin has taught courses in hacking techniques, forensics, networking, and intrusion detection for multiple universities, corporations, and security conferences, and is currently an instructor for the SANS Institute. In addition to electric power industry conferences, Justin frequently presents at top security conferences such as Black Hat, DEFCON, OWASP, AusCERT, and many others. Justin co-leads prominent open source projects including the Samurai Web Testing Framework, Middler, Yokoso!, and Laudanum. Justin has an MBA in International Technology and is a CISSP and SANS GIAC certified Incident Handler (GCIH), Intrusion Analyst (GCIA), and Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT).