EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

RISKNOUGHT: Stress-testing platform for cyber-physical water distribution networks

Dionysios Nikolopoulos1, Georgios Moraitis1, Dimitrios Bouziotas2, Archontia Lykou1, George Karavokiros1, and Christos Makropoulos1,2
Dionysios Nikolopoulos et al.
  • 1Department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Heroon Polytechneiou 5, 157 80 Zografou, Athens, Greece
  • 2KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Groningenhaven 7, 3433 PE Nieuwegein, The Netherlands

Emergent threats in the water sector have the form of cyber-physical attacks that target SCADA systems of water utilities. Examples of attacks include chemical/biological contamination, disruption of communications between network elements and manipulating sensor data. RISKNOUGHT is an innovative cyber-physical stress testing platform, capable of modelling water distribution networks as cyber-physical systems. The platform simulates information flow of the cyber layer’s networking and computational elements and the feedback interactions with the physical processes under control. RISKNOUGHT utilizes an EPANET-based solver with pressure-driven analysis functionality for the physical process and a customizable network model for the SCADA system representation, which is capable of implementing complex control logic schemes within a simulation. The platform enables the development of composite cyber-physical attacks on various elements of the SCADA including sensors, actuators and PLCs, assessing the impact they have on the hydraulic response of the distribution network, the quality of supplied water and the level of service to consumers. It is envisaged that this platform could help water utilities navigate the ever-changing risk landscape of the digital era and help address some of the modern challenges due to the ongoing transformation of water infrastructure into cyber-physical systems.

How to cite: Nikolopoulos, D., Moraitis, G., Bouziotas, D., Lykou, A., Karavokiros, G., and Makropoulos, C.: RISKNOUGHT: Stress-testing platform for cyber-physical water distribution networks, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19647,, 2020

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Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 01 May 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-19647, Stefano Galelli, 04 May 2020

    Very interesting work! A couple of questions:

    1. How does RISKNOUGHT simulate the information flow within the cyber layer?

    2. epanetCPA () is implemented in Matlab, while RISKNOUGHT in Python. That's great; more solutions available to EPANET modellers. What are the other key differences between epanetCPA and RISKNOUGHT?

    3. Is RISKNOUGHT already available online?



    Stefano Galelli

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Dionysios Nikolopoulos, 04 May 2020

      Dear Stefano,

      Thank you for your comments!  I would be happy if we had the oppurtunity to have this interesting conversation in the original planned PICO session. I will try to answer your questions the the best I can:

      1) RISKNOUGHT implements a cyber model on top of the physical processes. This model is built either automatically i.e. by building a network of components that recreate the original rules and controls of an imported EPANET model, or is user defined. The cyber model is a network model with nodes as cyber components (HMIS, Historian, central SCADA servers, PLCs, Sensors, actuators etc.) and edges as communication links between components (e.g. wireless communication, fiber optics etc.). Each cyber element is an instance of the respective class, with specialized functionality regarding its state, behaviour, communication with other elements etc. For example, in each simulation step, a Sensor checks the time, if it agrees with its sampling ratio, performs a reading action on the respective attribute (let’s say the level of a Tank). It then proceeds to communicate with the associated PLC, sending this message. The PLC receives this info from the communication link, and then checks whether it should perform any changes, as described by the embedded control logic. If an action should be taken e.g. close a valve, the PLC sends the message to the respective valve Actuator. The actuator receives this message, changes the state of the physical component, and sends back to the PLC an ACK (acknowledgement signal). The PLC reports back to the monitoring SCADA all information (sensor readings, actions, ACK etc.), the information is available on the HMI, and stored in the database of the Historian. More information is given in Nikolopoulos et al., 2020 “Cyber-Physical Stress-Testing Platform for Water Distribution Networks” which should be online in a matter of days, as it is in production now.

      2) I am familiar with epanetCPA and consider it a very influential tool to our line of work. It is a great, very usable tool, and is to our knowledge the first true simulation model for cyber-physical attacks in WDNs. With RISKNOUGHT we try to provide a complete stress-testing platform with additional functionality and tighter coupling with physical processes i.e. a) it models more cyber components (e.g. Historian, HMI) and relations between components (e.g. slave/master or autonomous-capable protocols between SCADA and PLCs), b) allows different sampling ratios for each sensor, c) more explicit control logic formulation by the user, d) can model answer/response schemes form components like ACK signals, e) provides an extensive list of supported attack types, f) can model contamination events and extends beyond typical EPANET control logic schemes with quality related rules (e.g. isolation of areas, flushing though hydrants), g) extends controls with actions on past timeseries with data provided by the Historian. Moreover, we provide a graphical use interface to facilitate the CPS definition, scenario creation and result visualization. We are also building a component for RISKNOUGHT to expand hydraulic processes simulation to water supply works e.g.reservoirs, boreholes, aqueducts, WTPs (we are planning to couple EPANET with Hydronomeas soon, if you are interested, we have a presentation on Hydronomeas tomorrow @session 3.1).

      3) RISKNOUGHT is not available online yet. The STOPIT project within which it was (partly) created is ongoing, and we expect to have a solution with a clear exploitation model within the next few months. Please contact us directly to register your interest and we will come back to you asap.

      Best regards,

      Dionysios Nikolopoulos

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Stefano Galelli, 04 May 2020

        Dear Dionysios,

        Thanks for the detailed response--I appreciate it.

        Yes, too bad we cannot chat in person about this! Please let me know when the paper will be available.



        • AC2: Reply to CC2, Dionysios Nikolopoulos, 05 May 2020

          Dear Stefano,

          The paper is finally available!

          Use this link:

          Let me know if you want to discuss anything about it!

          Best wishes,


          • CC3: Reply to AC2, Stefano Galelli, 05 May 2020

            Nice! Thank you!