US Department of Energy injects $15m into university cybersecurity hubs

US Department of Energy injects $15m into university cybersecurity hubs Main Photo

4 Apr 2024

Higher Education

The US DoE has made headlines with its announcement of a $15m investment aimed at fortifying cybersecurity within the energy sector.

According to Security Week, this strategic move will see six universities, handpicked by the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), becoming the beneficiaries of this funding. These institutions are set to collaborate closely with industry stakeholders and DOE National Laboratories, focusing on cybersecurity research and the development of training programs.

At the core of this initiative is the ambition to mitigate the risk of power disruptions that could arise from cyberattacks. The chosen university centers will leverage multidisciplinary expertise, combining insights from power system engineering and cybersecurity, to devise region-specific cybersecurity strategies. These strategies will be tailored to suit each area’s unique electricity system, infrastructure, and workforce capabilities.

Detailing the roles of the involved universities, the University of Connecticut is tasked with developing techniques to isolate and counteract the effects of cyberattacks on distributed energy resources (DER), thereby enhancing the speed of recovery operations. Meanwhile, Iowa State University will focus on bolstering the resilience of the distribution grid, which includes DER and microgrids.

The University of Pittsburgh plans to use digital twins to evaluate cybersecurity measures and the potential impacts of cyber compromises. The Illinois Institute of Technology will address cybersecurity issues related to DER and microgrids, aiming to improve detection and response mechanisms for system operators.

Texas Tech University is set to devise a comprehensive framework to combat the various stages of a cyber-physical attack, with an emphasis on the integration of DER in rural utilities across Texas. Lastly, Florida International University will investigate the potential of the moving target defense (MTD) technique in averting cyberattacks by obscuring system operations, a method particularly suited to systems with easily reroutable or switchable communications channels.

Additionally, these centers will host educational programs dedicated to training energy professionals on safeguarding the sector’s critical infrastructure against cyber threats. This initiative underscores the DOE’s commitment to enhancing the energy sector’s cybersecurity posture through collaborative research and education.

“This investment signifies a pivotal step towards safeguarding our nation’s energy sector against the growing threat of cyberattacks,” DOE CESER director said. “By harnessing the collective expertise of academia, industry, and government, we can develop robust cybersecurity solutions that not only protect our critical infrastructure but also ensure the resilience of our energy systems.”


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