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This paper investigates the use of Petri nets for modeling coordinated cyber-physical attacks on the smart grid. Petri nets offer more flexibility and expressiveness than traditional attack trees to represent the actions of simultaneous attackers. However, Petri net models for attacks on very large critical infrastructures such as the smart grid require a great amount of manual effort and detailed expertise in cyber-physical threats. To overcome these obstacles, we propose a novel hierarchical method to construct large Petri nets from a number of smaller Petri nets that can be created separately by different domain experts. The construction method is facilitated by a model description language that enables identical places in different Petri nets to be matched. The new modeling approach is described for an example attack on smart meters, and its efficacy is demonstrated by a proof-of-concept Python program.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2011