Skip to main content

Concordia receives $2 million to advance smart-grid technology

The industrial research chair will pursue cybersecurity enhancements for Quebec’s power systems
December 1, 2016

Mourad Debbabi | Photo by Concordia University Mourad Debbabi: "It’s a great pleasure to execute what we’ve envisaged." | Photo by Concordia

Concordia has received $2.165 million over five years to bolster new research into cybersecurity and power systems.

The research funding was awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through its Industrial Research Chairs program.

Mourad Debbabi, associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science and Concordia University Research Chair in Information Systems Security, was named principal chairholder of the NSERC/Hydro-Québec Thales Senior Industrial Research Chair in Smart Grid Security: Detection, Prevention, Mitigation and Recovery from Cyber-Physical Attacks.

As chairholder, Debbabi will work alongside leading industry co-sponsors Hydro-Québec and Thales to conduct cutting-edge research into Quebec’s power grid system with the intent of protecting the province’s power supplier from the threat of attacks on its cyber-physical system.

This encompasses software systems, communication technology and sensors that interact with the real world.

“I’ve worked actively with the industry over the last few years to put this research program into place; it’s a great pleasure to now be in a position to execute what we’ve envisaged,” Debbabi says.

“I have no doubt it will strengthen Concordia’s already prominent cybersecurity task force and concretize our leadership in the area both nationally and internationally.”

Debbabi will lead a team of about 25 researchers, professors, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and industry experts. Together, they will explore smart-grid technologies and protocols in order to come up with new cybersecurity detection, prevention, mitigation and recovery methods to enhance the overall security of Quebec’s power system.

“The Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering (CIISE) has a long-standing reputation as a valuable collaborator alongside government and business partners pursuing research in the field of cybersecurity,” says Concordia’s president Alan Shepard.

“This latest partnership will further advance developments that will protect against the threats to cyber safety and economic losses posed by attacks against power networks.”

Representatives from Concordia, Hydro-Quebec and Thales join Mourad Debbabi in celebrating the announcement of the new research chair. Representatives from Concordia, Hydro-Quebec and Thales

Justin Powlowski, Concordia’s interim vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies, notes that the focus of both Debbabi’s research, as well as the mission of the CIISE, is to provide an interdisciplinary approach to research on information systems applied to all engineering disciplines.

“Concordia is emerging as a leader in investigating cyberattacks, and devising and refining cybersecurity reinforcements. In fact, the CIISE was one of the first programs in Canada to fully specialize in cybersecurity,” he says.

Representatives from co-sponsors Hydro-Québec and Thales are confident that the Industrial Research Chair in Enhancing Smart Grid Security will further develop knowledge to protect crucial public services such as hospitals, police stations, banks and other organizations with computerized systems. 

Hydro-Québec’s system is becoming increasingly automated. The company is adding functions to make the system even more productive, so that it can, for example, adapt to real-time operating conditions, more easily integrate renewables and increase potential interaction with its customers.

“Integrating more intelligence into the network does of course mean increased cybersecurity challenges,” says Jérôme Gosset, general manager of IREQ, Hydro-Québec’s research institute.

“The new chair announced today will help advance current knowledge and develop new knowledge on cybersecurity applied to large power systems, which will benefit Hydro-Québec.”

"As a world leader in cybersecurity solutions, Thales is committed to protecting critical infrastructure from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks," says Siegfried Usal, the company’s vice-president of strategy.

“Thales uses best-in-class cybersecurity technologies and solutions to address the entire data security chain, from security consulting or data protection, to intrusion detection and security supervision through cybersecurity operation centres,” he adds.

“This partnership with Concordia will allow us to develop new talents in the field of cybersecurity and explore more ways of guaranteeing network resilience in the face of emerging threats.”

Amir Asif, dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, points out that the CIISE remains an international leader in investigating cyberattacks and enhancing network privacy.

“In view of the rapid development of smart-grid technologies to replace the traditional power grid framework, the work of Debbabi’s interdisciplinary team will provide invaluable research on improving cybersecurity in smart-grid systems and reducing associated security vulnerabilities,” he adds.

Concordia currently has seven full-time faculty members with core expertise in cybersecurity, and specialized master's programs in information systems security with more than 150 graduate students presently enrolled.

More than 60 current members are actively pursuing innovative research in the Cybersecurity Research Centre. Their work examines a variety of issues from cybersecurity and cyber-physical security to cyber forensics and privacy protection.

Find out more about the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.

Back to top

© Concordia University