Distributed controllers play a prominent role in electric power grid operation. The coordinated failure or malfunction of these controllers is a serious threat, where the resulting mechanisms and consequences are not yet well-known and planned against. If certain controllers are maliciously compromised by an adversary, they can be manipulated to drive the system to an unsafe state. The authors present a strategy for distributed controller defence (SDCD) for improved grid tolerance under conditions of distributed controller compromise. The work of the authors’ first formalises the roles that distributed controllers play and their control support groups using controllability analysis techniques. With these formally defined roles and groups, the authors then present defence strategies for maintaining or regaining system control during such an attack. A general control response framework is presented here for the compromise or failure of distributed controllers using the remaining, operational set. The SDCD approach is successfully demonstrated with a 7-bus system and the IEEE 118-bus system for single and coordinated distributed controller compromise; the results indicate that SDCD is able to significantly reduce system stress and mitigate compromise consequences.