Integrity attacks on real-time pricing in electric power grids

Rui Tan, Varun Badrinath Krishna, David K.Y. Yau, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Modern information and communication technologies used by electric power grids are subject to cybersecurity threats. This article studies the impact of integrity attacks on real-time pricing (RTP), an emerging feature of advanced power grids that can improve system efficiency. Recent studies have shown that RTP creates a closed loop formed by the mutually dependent real-time price signals and price-taking demand. Such a closed loop can be exploited by an adversary whose objective is to destabilize the pricing system. Specifically, small malicious modifications to the price signals can be iteratively amplified by the closed loop, causing highly volatile prices, fluctuating power demand, and increased system operating cost. This article adopts a control-theoretic approach to deriving the fundamental conditions of RTP stability under basic demand, supply, and RTP models that characterize the essential behaviors of consumers, suppliers, and system operators, as well as two broad classes of integrity attacks, namely, the scaling and delay attacks. We show that, under an approximated linear time-invariant formulation, the RTP system is at risk of being destabilized only if the adversary can compromise the price signals advertised to consumers, by either reducing their values in the scaling attack or providing old prices to over half of all consumers in the delay attack. The results provide useful guidelines for system operators to analyze the impact of various attack parameters on system stability so that they may take adequate measures to secure RTP systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalACM Transactions on Information and System Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Cyber security
  • Demand response
  • Electricity market
  • Power grid
  • Real-time pricing
  • Smart grid
  • Stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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